June 11th, 2003 | Special Section Stories
 

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The Mint Julep
Two (Completely Different) Steps to Mint JULEPS WITHOUT TEARS
Solving the world's most fiercly debated cocktail
BY ZACH DUNDAS

The mint julep is like the Talmud: Slightly different interpretations of the same basic text inspire savage disagreement. Mint. Whiskey. Water. Sugar. What could go wrong? Yet woebetide the host who offers a julep to a fanatic, only to prepare the wrong version of the great Southern potion.

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Shaved ice or crushed ice? Juice? Brandy? Bourbon, rye or blended? Plain sugar or simple syrup? Virginia, Kentucky, Georgia or elsewhere? Is silver mandatory, or will plain old glass do? I have seen julep recipes calling for preparations lasting five minutes, half an hour and five days. I've heard tell of one involving "embalming a cotton T-shirt," whatever that means.

Facing fanaticism on all sides, I took two measures in search of rationality:

I called a professional.

Bob Brunner, master of cocktails at Paragon in the Pearl District, has his solution to the world julep crisis.

"I take a bucket glass, put powdered sugar and six to eight mint sprigs in the bottom, then add a splash of water and muddle that," Brunner says, without a hint of insanity. "Then I fill the glass with crushed ice and pour bourbon over the ice, and finish it with a splash of water."

Very simple. Except Brunner acknowledges the hundreds of contending schools of thought. He says his recipe is basically the Louisiana version of the drink, from Famous New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix 'Em by Stanley Clisby Arthur and George Forrest Hopkins. The tome has seen 18 printings since 1937, so it must have something going for it. But not the last word. Never that.

"Depending on where you're at," Brunner says, "you'll hear people say you can only make them with rye whiskey, or with blended whiskey. Here, we pretty much use a sour mash--Maker's Mark makes a great one."

(For the record, MM is what I use to make my own juleps, simple creations you might call My Li'l Julep By Hasbro™.)

I consulted down-home wisdom.

WW copy editrix Margaret Seiler hails from the Great Commonwealth of Kentucky, arguably the julep's most visible domain thanks to the drink's association with the Derby. Margaret filled me in on preferences she inherited.

"My grandmother, recently deceased at 95, said, 'Only commoners don't strain their mint,'" Margaret reports.

Then again, she also says her grandmother insisted on pepper on cantaloupe. "She would punctuate these rules with an 'abso-damn-lutely' and a tip of her scotch and soda."

Unlike Brunner (who, fair's fair, is thinking about mixing drinks in a bustling bar rather than the leisure of the veranda), Margaret comes down on the syrup side of the sugar question. "Boiling is absolutely essential to get a real syrup," she says. "Mix 'n' go is terrible."

(For the record, however, other partisans insist boiling ruins sugar by caramelizing it. Deep waters, my friends. Deep waters indeed.)

Finally, as I weighed the good advice of both Brunner and Seiler, I recalled yet another piece of folk wisdom. To make the perfect julep, a man once said, take whiskey, water, mint, ice and sugar. Drink the goddamn whiskey and throw everything else away.

Five Hard to Beat SUMMER Eats
Oregon's summer pickings yield plenty of seasonal treats.Solving the world's most fiercely debated cocktail.
BY KIM COLTON

Summer harvest season is upon us, friends, and the next few months are, hands down, the hottest time for quality Northwest eats. Come September, we'll all have reaped the rewards of basketloads of berries, the best of summer squash, the bounty of the farmer's markets, and all that glorious weather. There's so much booty falling off the trees, shrubs and tractors this time of year, the options are dizzying. Here's a rundown of a few of the best prospects and where to find them:

Berry Berries: The Northwest's homegrown burger joint, Burgerville, loves to serve homegrown products so much, it mounts a calendar of its seasonal menu on its website, www.burgerville.com. Summertime at these fast-food-with-an-attitude spots is berry-milkshake time. Each month of summer, Oregonians are treated to a different featured milkshake. Ergo: June = strawberries, July = raspberries, August = blackberries. Burgerville, 1122 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 230-0479, and other locations. Shakes cost $3.29-$4.29.

Summer Dipping: Artichokes--those prickly bulbs more prone to cactus comparison than beautiful flower--have long been the source of great restaurant dips. But whole artichokes, with those spiky petals that get softer as you pick 'em, are better dippers than tortilla chips--not to mention way more fun to eat. As the spiky layers peel away, the artichoke's creamy/crunchy heart rewards the dipper. Peel a whole one back at Shanghai Tunnel and plop the petals into a pool of garlic aoili. Shanghai Tunnel, 211 SW Ankeny St., 220-4001. $6.

SausageFest: All the bustling and hustling at Portland's midweek farmer's market may give off a less than idyllic vibe, but there's at least one good reason for agoraphobes to pop by: the homemade Italian sausage sandwiches from Dundee sausagiers Salumeria di Carlo. Fans of the bun-wrapped dogs choose between a sweet Northern (infused with coriander, white wine and garlic) or the spicy Southern (packed with fennel, chili, and garlic). Both options arrive splashed with a choice of sweet honey or American yellow mustards, then topped with a rainbow of grilled bell peppers and onions. It's a messy treat that's worth the crowded market wait. Salumeria di Carlo, Wednesdays at Portland Farmer's Market, South Park Blocks between Salmon and Main streets. $4.

Go Go Gazpacho: Soup lovers: Yes, the weather's heating up, but that doesn't mean it's time to forgo our addiction to the liquid meal. Remember gazpacho, that tomato-based, chunky-smooth cold soup favored in Mediterranean regions? Well, Colosso's Ibera-centric kitchen takes advantage of the forthcoming lush tomato crop and offers a multicolored host of gazpacho options this summer. Colosso rotates these cold soups with other soup options, so call ahead to see if one of the red, yellow, green and white varieties is on the menu du jour. Colosso, 1932 NE Broadway, 288-3333. $4.50.

Krazy Kernels: Festival season is upon us--and so are the grease-laden eats that come with it. Thing is, you don't have to trek through the Fun Zone to get some of these goodies. Witness: multiflavored popcorn. Sectioned Christmas tins of the stuff are a mainstay of the holiday season. For those who can't get enough two times a year, Joe Brown's Carmel Corn slings six flavors of the freshly popped kernels all year long. As a bonus, Joe Brown's is located at two of Portland's most carnival-like destinations: the downtown bus mall and Lloyd Center. From white cheddar cheese to kettle corn, in snack size to extra-large bags, Joe's is poppin'. Joe Brown's Carmel Corn, 1053 Lloyd Center, 287-2143; 1033 SW 6th Ave., 243-6660. $1.85-$6.85.

Five Great BAR GAMES
BY KIM COLTON

Tired of darts, Golden-Tee, and yes, even video poker? Maybe it's time you went back to your favorite games of childhood--only with a frosty mug in your hand. Portland pubs and bars offer plenty of opportunities to play games, and not all of them have to do with sex and Jägermeister. Here are a few real games people play with other people at some of this city's most friendly watering holes.

Ping-Pong

Finally some genius decided to take this back-and-forth paddle fest out of the basement and into the spotlight. And it sure beats the hell out of what they do with Ping-Pong balls in strip clubs. Etcetera Tavern, 3276 NE Killingsworth St., 282-2411.

Bingo

Boxxes holds court over the craziest bingo game in town. You won't find your granny there (your grandpa in drag, maybe). Boxxes, 1035 SW Stark St., 226-4171. 9 pm Sundays.

Girl Talk

Yes, this gossip-loaded board game was fun in junior high, but did you ever think you'd play it in a bar? With dykes and punks? Other memory makers at Whatever Lounge games include Green Eggs and Ham, the National Enquirer Board Game and Beat the Clock. Whatever Lounge, 2209 NE Alberta St., 460-0368.

Sorry!

A Parker Bros. classic, Sorry! is the game where screwing your friends wins you top honors. The best place for this kind of backstabbing is, of course, a bar, where a pint'll solve any sore feelings. The Barley Mill (with multitudes of Grateful Dead posters and an all-Dead juke--perhaps McMenamins' most hippie bar) also sports friendlier games like Scrabble and checkers. Barley Mill Pub, 1629 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 231-1492.

Shuffleboard

Think this game's reserved for the gray-haired, plaid-pants-wearing crowds in Boca or on a Princess Cruise? Think again! Nothing beats a biker who has just scored the winning round. Sandy Hut, 1430 NE Sandy Blvd., 235-7972. Hal's Tavern, 1308 SE Morrison St., 232-1259.

Five Tips to Rub Your MEAT the Right Way
BY DAVID WALKER

Iron chefs who spend their time in an armor of apron and tongs take pride in developing their own secret recipes for grilling supremacy. But what about the rest of the fools, who can barely light a match, let alone grill a steak? Cooking on an open grill requires more than slapping down raw animal flesh and hoping you don't burn the hell out of it. The true key to successful grill cooking is preparation. With proper seasoning and sauce, grilling doesn't have to be rocket science. Preparing meat, fish or poultry is as simple as having a good spice rub to dry-marinate your food.

Five tips for Dry Rubbing:

1. Rather than rummaging through your own collection of expired herbs, pick any one of the several King of the Cajuns Brands Seasonings from local spice-master Ken Groves (around $5 each). With his superior spicing skills, Ken the 'cue man has taken all the guesswork out of adding a dash and a pinch, and put them all together for you in a variety of flavors, including blackened, cajun, cream and gumbo filé. Available locally at Saturday Market, the master's secret recipes are also at www.kingofthecajuns. com.

2. Take the seasoning of your choice, and gently rub it into uncooked meat, fish or poultry. Let it dry-marinate for at least four hours (longer for those who want it extra spicy).

3. Cook over an open flame. You've already spiked your meat, so don't worry about buying a bag of fancy-schmancy seasoned wood chips to flavor your meal. Good old charcoal briquettes will do the job just fine.

4. Add punch to your pork, chicken or any other brazen beast. Stir in a healthy amount King of the Cajuns seasoning to your Heinz 57, A-1 or bottle of store-bought ketchup.

5. Now, get to rubbing! And if you're not a flesh-eater, take note: This stuff also works on red beans and rice.

Blind, Drunk Melon: SLOSHY FRUIT Cocktails
BY MATT McNALLY

Expensive hooch poured over enormous melons? No, it's not Snoop's next Girls Gone Wild softcore video. Rather, it's a clever and civilized idea to help you eat healthy and also get boozed-up this summer. This handy recipe (which eventually gives you a very portable, very alcoholic fruit basket) couldn't be simpler, but you have to think ahead as it can take up to a week to concoct. Get it right, though, and this is the perfect cooler to cart along to any barbecue or picnic.

What You Need: a good-sized, ripe watermelon; a bottle of vodka (you may experiment with different types as well as champagne, gin, lighter fluid); a funnel (that hasn't been used for changing oil or siphoning gas).

What You Need to Do a Week Prior: Cut a hole large enough to fit the funnel in one end of the melon. Pour in some vodka until the watermelon can't stand any more! (The watermelon will only take on the booze a little at a time, since this fruit is pretty liquidy to begin with.) Put the sucker into the fridge. Repeat daily for an entire week, adding small amounts until the flesh of the fruit eventually becomes saturated.

What You Get (After a Week of Work): Once your edible pulpy mass is thoroughly snockered, you'll want to serve it. To do that, cut it up like you would any fruity melon and let your guests go at it with their hands. Although technically impossible, watching folks try to eat this, rather than drink it, can be loads of laughs.

AND ALWAYS REMEMBER: Vodka is vodka, whether it's wrapped up in watermelon or not. If you've consumed an entire watermelon on your own, you've completely overdone it, you greedy little sorority sister!

Five Boating and DRINKING NO-NOS
BY GAVIN LANE

Many of you may already know that it's completely legal to drink when you're on a boat or other sea-worthy vessel. But did you know getting your own vessels too tanked up isn't? Public intoxication is a no-no when it comes to sailing the seas, lakes or ponds of Oregon. Here are five rules of the road--or, in this case, the waterway--for alcohol consumption and boating. Consider the following information (courtesy of the Oregon State Marine Board) your Bud Light life preserver.

1. While operating a boat, you must keep your blood-alcohol level below 0.08 percent, or you can be issued a BUII (Boating under the Influence of Intoxicants). That's why you might want to stock your cooler with a few O'Doul's or other near beers.

2. The penalty for a BUII can be as steep as one year in jail and/or a fine up to $5,000 (the average fine was $650 in 2001). Is your life, job and at least a month's rent check really worth a cold 40 of Pabst?

3. A BUII can be issued for any non-motorized watercraft you're operating, too. So if you're in a kayak or an inner tube and have some sort of paddle, you are considered an operator/driver. Paddle responsibly.

4. The police and Coast Guard do not need probable cause to stop and search you and your vessel. So keep the wacky antics (wet T-shirt contests, mooning other boaters, general foolishness) to the pre-cocktail hour.

5. Anyone in a boat can have an open container, but if the operator has one it might raise an eyebrow and up your chances of being paid a visit by the Multnomah County River Patrol Unit (see Tip No. 4).

 
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