Jun 27, 201310:03 AM
All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans
The Best Fourth of July Ever
Karula, stock.xchng, 2006
Is there any other day of the week better for a Fourth of July than Thursday? Every other day of the week has some shortcomings. When the 4th falls on a weekend, there is a faux holiday tossed into the mix which is not really quite “the day.”
Saturday is a gooday for the Fourthmost of us already enjoy a no-work day on Saturday so we aren’t really gaining much here. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday are really not good days for the Fourth because they are surrounded either by days we are already taking off from work, or they are followed by a workday or two.
Thursday means we have a short-week, and we just have to take one day of vacation, or sick time for those of you that like to save your vacation days (I never understood the concept of a company offering sick days, which are all about being sick, then having employees take that time even when they are not sick.) That one day of vacation, Friday this year, spreads to four days in much the same way that the miracle of compound interest exponentially grows your savings, or at least used to before banks settled on a 1.20% interest rate. Watching savings grow now is a lot like waiting for Steen’s Sugar Cane Syrup® to exit the bottle after you mistakenly set it in the refrigerator.
The other joy of the 4th on a Thursday is that we have Friday to snap out of our bit-too-much-celebration mode and still have two more days away from the salt mine. Gotta’ love that.
There is the Big Question of what kind of celebration are we going to stage. This being New Orleans the question of no celebration at all is not the correct answer. There may be a few of you non-opportunists out there who will spend the day in the quiet of your air conditioned environment, making soup, and enjoying lemonade. My money is not being bet that those people are readers of these ramblings, so we move on.
Choosing the proper liquid accompaniment to cook-outs, buffet dining, friends’ soirees, family gatherings in the park and watching fireworks is an important decision. Likely staying with one style of drink all day is not the way you are going. You will need something just right to start the day off on the correct path and then switch to an adult beverage which allows you to enjoy quantity along with quality. During the evening hours move along to a more relaxed light-cocktail mode after the duties of the day (cooking, friends, kids) are on the wane.
Let me hasten to add here a note about drinking and driving around town. If you have had too much celebration, don’t climb behind the wheel of car with a “leave me alone. I am perfectly fine and can do this” attitude. Don’t. It’s not good for you, your family, and anyone else who is sharing the road with you. Be honest. Give it up. Hand the keys to someone who is in the proper frame of body and mind, or call a taxi. You know what it takes to do the right thing, so do it.
Anyway, starting a day of celebration with a lighter style wine, like a rosé or a sparkling wine, is just great. Charging out of the gate with a lot of heavy flavors and alcohol is a surefire way to an early finish. You don’t want to wake up on July 5 and wonder why there were no fireworks the day before.
Rosés and sparkling wines are perfect for a wide variety of reasons, not the least of which they are lower in alcohol than just about any other adult beverage. It is also true that they are good warm-weather wines, and they don’t contain stupid amounts of sugar, which means they are not sweet or filling, nor do they do short-term harm to your abilities to function as a responsible member of society. How you act the rest of the time is on your nickel.
There are a number of rosé wines from the south of France, and the inventory is always in flux. Only so many are made and so the labels are in almost constant rotation. Look around for wines from Provence, Nimes, and Cahors. They are usually very good bargains, below $13, and present the fresh strawberry fruit that makes these wines so appealing.
As for sparkling wines, seek out wines from Spain, marked cava; from Italy, marked Prosecco; and wines from California and Oregon, marked sparkling wine. All are usually under $18, although you can pay more, if you wish. You may want to stay with the designation on the labels noted brut, unless you like something a bit sweeter, and in that case check out demi-sec denoted wines.
The 4th is usually a time for a cold, frosty brew, and we are lucky to have so many local and regional breweries. Buying “local” does all the right things economically, and you are usually assured of getting a product as fresh as any brew master can send to you.
You likely need no introduction to Abita Beer. They have been around here since the mid-1980’s, and recently have gone on a national marketing push. I saw almost the complete line-up in a new bar in San Francisco just last week. Had to buy one (okay, three), you know.
Abita Amber is still the real deal, with many folks preferring Purple Haze.
Recently NOLA Brewing has made significant inroads into the market with better distribution. I really enjoy Hopitoulas, not just the beer but also the name since the brewery is located on Tchoupitoulas. And I also enjoy Blonde.
From just a bit further away, in Cajun Country, is LA 31 from Bayou Teche Brewing (I can only conclude that the default position for beer companies when looking for names is to look at the street sign out front of the building. And in this case, they also included a waterway), which is available locally both in bottles and on tap.
The one that you will find most easily is Bière Pâle, a medium-weight beer that really works well with our cuisine.
As the day proceeds along, and this is where an abundance of caution comes heavily into play, you may wish to reward yourself, and it’s always nice to share. Next year we will have many more local rums, with several other Louisiana distilleries fully coming on-line.
This year, we have Old New Orleans Rum, based in Gentilly, and it is an excellent choice. If you are making batch beverages, go with the Crystal, but the real fun is in the Amber or the Cajun Spice, both of which work well when they are the featured spirit in the cocktail.
ONO Rum has also created a ginger-based drink, Gingeroo, which is carbonated and opens up some interesting possibilities when used in punch-style drinks.
If esoteric is your direction, then look to another local distillery, Atelier Vie, located in Mid-City, under the Broad Street Overpass, right where you would expect a distillery to be located. Yea, right.
They are crafting a number of products, among them is Buck 25, a very high proof vodka, and Toulouse Red, a red absinthe of distinct quality.
Celebrating the 4th is a grand, national tradition, but there is nothing wrong in staying local with your beverage selections. There’s a theme worth celebrating.
French-American Annual Celebration
Just ahead of the 4th and the upcoming Bastille Day commemoration is one of the better annual summertime events in New Orleans, and you know those are few and far between, The French American Chamber of Commerce Summer in Provence celebrates the work of this multi-national business-building group and also provides us an opportunity to enjoy fine wines, beers and spirits from both countries, excellent cuisine from more than 20 local chefs, and mingle in a congenial atmosphere. Can’t beat that.
Tickets are $55 now, $65 at the door. Absolutely worth it for all the food and drink that will be offered. Event is this Saturday, June 29, 7-10 p.m. at The Shops of Canal Place, Level 2. Tickets can be obtained by calling, 504-458-3528, or on-line, http://2013summerwinefestivalsummerinprovence.eventbrite.com.