Thursday, June 13, 2013

Fellow Food Bloggers and Cocktail Cohorts - The Brunch

Occasionally - not always - some of the best plans are hatched among friends around the bar. As I recall, the idea arose around a discussion of tiki drinks, which led to building the perfect pina colada, which led to the question, "Have you ever had a grilled pina colada?" Which naturally then led to the next question, "When are you going to have US over for brunch?!" Thus the plan AND the brunch was born.

Bloody Mary Bar - Just the beginning!                 Photo credit - Jenn Tkocs & Michael Scotto
Dessert was already set...grilled pina coladas, of course. And Bloody Marys because, in my humble opinion, there is no brunch without bloodies. Two kinds actually - a standard one for non-adventurers, and a not-for-the-faint-of-heart version kicked up with reconstituted dried guajillo peppers and chile de arbol peppers, fresh garlic and jalapenos, mesquite smoked salt and some other fun stuff thrown in for good measure. Okay...drinks and dessert are set, what else? (Imagine the thrumming of fingertips on tabletop while pondering the question....) 

Smoked Pork Belly on the left, Grilled Paiche on the right - both with ALL the fixings!                Photo credit - Jenn Tkocs & Michael Scotto

Photo credit - Jenn Tkocs & Michael Scotto
Breakfast tacos! (NO! I just realized I forgot to make dippy eggs! Drat.) Sans the dippy eggs, we managed to make do with roasted mojo pork, grilled paiche fish (the fishmongers behind the glass at Whole Foods assured me it was a mild, sweet and delicious pick - and it was on sale!) and smoked pork belly that I'd rubbed the night before. Mark got up early to get it on the smoker by 6:00 a.m.

With breakfast tacos, naturally there were black beans, jalapeno coleslaw, cilantro lime crema and pickled red onions as traditional accompaniments. A huge coconut rum fruit salad filled in the holes...oh, and a batch of key lime coconut bars, too.  

Sure food is important at a brunch, but with the cocktail geeks and bartenders in attendance, there must be fabulous cocktails! And there were. Each guest was requested to bring the requirements for his or her favorite or signature cocktail. Boy oh BOY, did they come through! 

Michael with Blackberry Mezcal Julep   Photo credit - Jenn Tkocs & Michael Scotto

Jenn and Michael (of the blog 101 Achievements fame) made a variation on a julep...made with mezcal (instead of bourbon) and blackberries along with the required julep ingredient, mint. Smoky, sweet and minty with a kick. Marvelous.

Tiki Max in the midst of the 1934 Zombie creative process!   
Photo credit - Jenn Tkocs & Michael Scotto

Max and Chip (of RhoMania) brought some amazing rums and homemade syrups they magically turned into classic tiki drinks. Max's authentic tiki mugs were the icing on the cake...or the lime in the coconut? Max made not just any old Zombie, but the original 1934 Zombie recipe using hand-cranked crushed ice, no less. Next up was the 151 Swizzle!

Dave and Gail discussing proper Mai Tai preparation.   Photo credit - Jenn Tkocs & Michael Scotto  
One beautifully garnished Mai Tai Photo credit - Jenn Tkocs & Michael Scotto


That wasn't the end of the tiki drinks, folks. Fellow former mixology classmates, Gail and Dave, created Mai Tais that were simply out of this world. The making of the tiki drink for them was just a warm up for their tropical themed wedding in LESS THAN A MONTH. Awwwwww. Mark and I already have our tropical attire ready to dance at their wedding.

Marie, Gail, Dave - Where was Brian?!
Photo credit - Jenn Tkocs & Michael Scotto

What did our Acacia bartender guests, Marie and Brian, make? Absolutely nothing. On their day off, we guaranteed them they wouldn't be making drinks for anyone, it was their turn to be served! Maybe the drinks made for them weren't as wonderful as what they normally make for us, but we tried our darndest. If nothing else, a good time was had by all in the sunshine and the breezes under the big umbrella with full bellies and drinks in each of our hands. 

Photo credit - Jenn Tkocs & Michael Scotto

Grilled Pina Colada

Makes 4

  • 1 fresh pineapple, outside removed, cored and cut into 3/4" slices
  • 1 cup coconut flakes, toasted
  • 1 cup caramel topping, good quality (I prefer Richardson's)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 cup rum, Meyers dark rum, coconut rum, whatever kind you prefer - I used Kraken spiced rum this time!
  • 4 scoops ice cream, Talenti's coconut gelato
  • fresh whipped cream

Melt together caramel topping, butter and rum in a small saucepan until well combined.  Set aside.

Grill pineapple slices on both sides until caramelized and have nice grill marks. 

On a pretty plate, place a slice of pineapple, scoop gelato into center of ring, top with whipped cream, drizzle with caramel and sprinkle with toasted coconut.  AWESOME!

Spicy Szechuan Smoked Pork Belly

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon Szechuan peppercorns
  • 2 small green cardamom pods - find these at Penzey's in the Strip District
  •  1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
  • 3 pound VERY lean pork belly (yes, I know this is an oxymoron)

Put the black and Szechuan peppercorns and the cardamom pods in a small coffee or spice grinder - or just crush them with a mortar & pestle. Remove to a small bowl, add the salt & sugar and mix well. Set aside.

Score both sides of the pork belly in a diamond pattern. Rub the peppercorn mixture evenly onto both sides of the meat. Use ALL of the rub. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. An hour before you're ready to smoke, take the meat out of the fridge to bring to room temp.

Prepare smoker as you normally would and soak smoker chips for at least an hour in water (wouldn't sake be nice instead of water?!) - I like hickory for this dish.

Once the smoker is ready to roll, unwrap the pork belly and place it on the smoker. We smoked this for about 4-5 hours - how long yours takes depends on you and your smoker.

Remove from heat when done, let rest 15 minutes and slice against the grain.

Serve on tacos or just by itself. Serve for breakfast or dinner. 
You will LOVE this one!

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