The Ultimate Summer Quencher: Watermelon Agua Fresca

Watermelon Agua Fresca

While I ate my share of fancy food in Austin, it’s a simple food cart that has been on my mind since we left. At Veracruz All-Natural, the migas breakfast tacos were unbelievably fantastic, which makes sense since they border on legendary, but it was the watermelon agua fresca that inspired obsession.

It could have been because we had drank a good amount the night before and then walked 2 miles in 90 degree weather to the cart, but one sip of that agua fresca was enough to knock my socks off. Sadly it’s one of my biggest vacation regrets that we never made it back for a second one.

And oh, we wanted to — in fact, every other day we tried to plot a trip back to the cart. But every time something else distracted us (either in the form of brisket or beer).

To make it up to me, last weekend my husband brought me home a huge watermelon. We shared a meaningful look and then I immediately turned to google.

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Beer and Beaches: Eating and drinking on the Oregon coast

A beach more suited to beer than a piña colada.

Oregon beaches are more suited to microbrews than piña coladas.

I love little beach towns. While I dream about tropical palm-tree-and-white-sand beach towns, I really love small quaint slightly foggy coastal towns. I guess it has to do with the fact that I grew up on Kodiak Island, a tiny town in the Gulf of Alaska. No matter where you went, you weren’t far from the ocean, salty air and harbors full of fishing boats.

My husband also has an affinity for such places so it was easy to convince him to spend last Sunday at the Oregon coast, despite the overcast weather. We have spent quite a bit of time in Newport and Seaside, but we hadn’t done much in Astoria. We drove through the town a few years ago but our my only purpose was to see the Goonies House (so cool!).

This time we wanted to spend more time poking around the town and being by the water. (I didn’t tell my husband my game plan also included beer, lots of beer! For a rather small town — less than 10,000 people I think — Astoria manages to have several breweries and I was determined to visit at least two of them.)

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Salted limes make vodka happy…

Salted Lime Vodka Collins

Salted Lime Vodka Collins

I’ve been on a real Pok Pok tear lately — I’ve been cooking out of the book for the past few weeks and my daydreams have begun to feature fish sauce wings (a recipe I haven’t made yet). But even more than Ike’s famous wings, I have been craving a certain cocktail from Pok Pok — the salted plum vodka collins. Besides the odd beer here and there, this is the only thing I drink while dining there.

It is sweet, tart, tangy and intriguingly different from any other cocktail I’ve had. Once I discovered it, it was all I ever needed.

In fact I used to sit at the bar in the early days of Pok Pok (when it was less busy and you could actually just walk in and sit there) and stare down the bartender as he made it. I was determined to figure the recipe out — and after a few drinks one evening, I had it on mental lock down.

But alas, the day I was craving it the strongest, I didn’t have any salted plums on hand to get my fix. However I did have salted limes, which one of Pok Pok’s sister restaurants, The Whiskey Soda Lounge, uses in their salted lime vodka collins. Unsurprisingly, that is my go-to cocktail when I eat there.

Clearly there is a theme in my life — I like vodka drinks, I love salted things and put an Amarena cherry in there and I’m sold!

The ingredients for both cocktails are the same, except for the limes and plums, of course.

The basics...not pictured is the soda water.

The basics…not pictured is the soda water.

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Celebrating St. Paddy’s with the Irish Holy Trinity of Booze

Irish Car Bomb Jello Shots

Irish Car Bomb Jello Shots

In culinary school I learned the about the trinity of mire poix: onions, carrots and celery. I also learned the holy trinity used in Cajun or Creole cooking: onion, celery and green bell pepper. If one was to put together a boozy trinity for St. Paddy’s Day, it seems obvious it would include Jameson, Baileys and Guinness.

And in fact, those three boozy friends come together often (probably most often on college campuses all over the country) to form the drink known as the Irish Car Bomb. I’m not really huge on the name of the shot — which is insensitive at best — but it’s what this combination is most known as so I’m going to roll with it for this post.

To help celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, and to help make my Monday less dreary, I decided to whip a batch of Irish Car Bomb Jello Shots up over the weekend. I found the recipe on Gizmodo and the reviews of it seemed like it was winner so I hightailed it to the liquor store to pick up the necessities:

Irish Car Bomb Jello Shots

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Hop worship & throwing the best beer-day party ever!

This is how I roll when it's my birthday...

This is how I roll when it’s my birthday…

If you read Wednesday’s post, you’ll know I’m in the middle of series about throwing the best damned B-day party ever — where the B stands for beer, glorious beer! In this post I’m getting down and dirty with the specifics on how I went about this extravaganza.

I spent the month prior to the party relentlessly planning it. Some things I figured out with relative ease, like the beer-infused party favors and the beer shaped cake (thank you Pastrygirl for making my beer-filled dream come true!).

Hell, even finding super fun beer-shaped candles was a surprisingly easy feat (at least for my friend DB who scored them at a local cake decorating place).

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Lemongrass Chicken & A “Wish it was Summer” Cocktail

Ginger Lemongrass Chicken Thighs

Chicken thighs marinated in coconut milk, ginger and lemongrass.

I almost titled this “Mother Nature is a bitch” but I didn’t want to get on her bad side.

See, I’m a summer person; I tend to daydream about sunshine from October all way until June. So it’s no surprise that last week my mind was on white sandy beaches when Portland got buried under 7 inches of snow.

Within the first hour of “Snowmageddon,” most of Portland was in a panic. People left work in droves, restaurants closed and the roads were flooded with cars as everyone tried to make it home before the worst of the storm hit.

I, on the other hand, was simply mad.

Sure snow can be pretty, but come on — I got through all of December and January marveling at how mild the weather was only to let my guard down in February. It was just cruel, and the cruelness continued for three days, ending with a stint of freezing rain that coated the streets in a layer of ice.

And even as the days finally warmed up and the snow began to melt, I continued to give in to thoughts of tropical beaches, palm trees and fancy umbrella drinks. It was not a good mental path to go down when the city you live in is covered in dirty slush.

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