Monday, June 13, 2011

Now All We Need Is A Thousand Tchotchkes Tacked To The Walls

There’s a longer-than-I’d-like-to-admit list of Fantastic Restaurants At Which I Never Ate When I Was A Vegetarian Because Why Bother?, which includes almost every single great restaurant in New York City and don’t even get me started on what a waste that was because I’ll weep, but at least I can say I’ve probably eaten at Candle CafĂ© more times than almost anyone in the whole world due to the fact that I lived right around the corner for two years and where else can the 24-year-old-girl-on-the-go get a tofu club sandwich before she heads out for a night of serious drinking?

Anyway, near the top of the Alaska section of that list is the Double Musky Inn, a favorite haunt of the late Sen. Ted Stevens where there is literally nothing on the menu that I would have eaten between 1995 and 2000 or 2002 and 2008. Seriously. Not one thing. I can literally produce an e-mail from the summer of 2007 in which I declined to have dinner with friends from school who I hadn’t seen since the semester ended because they wanted to go to the Musky and I saw no reason to drive all the way to Girdwood just so I could watch them eat.

Fortunately, I snapped out of my meatless ways for good sometime in the summer of 2008, and MLB and I have since made a couple of trips out to the Musky, where we have waited up to two hours for the privilege of being served gigantic slabs of brontosaurus meat a la “The Flintstones.”

That may be slightly hyperbolic. But for reals, the steaks are huge. Bigger than your head.

I wouldn’t say I love the Musky (it’s not a Prada backpack, y’all), but I do like it quite a bit once in a while — and there is one thing I am totally crazy about on the Double Musky menu. Like seriously craving let’s-serve-this-at-our-wedding crazy: a lavender-scented Champagne cocktail called the Bogalusa Belle. Sometimes I lie awake at night and think about it. It’s that good. But it’s hard to come up with a good excuse to drive the most dangerous stretch of highway in the state just for a few marked-up Champagne cocktails. (And as my dad and his buddy Chief Chadwick would point out, also probably not a good idea to drive home afterward.)

But! I am a resourceful thing, after all, and I figured it could only be so difficult to make this fairly straightforward but totally awesome drink. So I stopped on the way home and picked up a $9 bottle of sparkling wine that apparently costs only $8 in places that aren’t Alaska (seriously, Barefoot Bubbly extra dry, totally quaffable, check it out if you like to drink Champagne as much as I do and have a grumpy man watching your credit card transactions like I do) so I could give it a try.

Want to make your own? You’ll need:
  • Champagne (or sparkling white wine; as we all learned from Rob Lowe in “Wayne’s World,” “all Champagne is French; it’s named after the region. Otherwise it’s sparkling white wine. Americans, of course, don’t recognize the convention, so it becomes that thing of calling all their sparkling whites ‘champagne,’ even though by definition they’re not.”
  • Sugar
  • Water (you will find this in your tap)
  • Culinary lavender (which, of course, you have on hand in your baking cupboard)
I legitimately had culinary lavender on hand. No joke. Because that’s how I roll.

OK, well, actually it’s because a few years ago my mom and her friends went on a lavender buying trip to the San Juans and she brought me back all kinds of lavender stuff, and I’ve never gotten around to using this tin of culinary lavender even though I’ve been thinking for ages that I should try to replicate the house lavender-maple vinaigrette from Sack’s, which I could seriously guzzle by the vat. This particular tin of lavender comes from Purple Haze Lavender Farm, which was my mother’s favorite stop on the Soap Tour because, of course, my parents are dirty filthy socialist hippies.

The Bogalusa Belle, according to my memory of the description on the Double Musky cocktail menu, has approximately two ingredients: Champagne and lavender simple syrup. I had the Champagne, so all that was left was to concoct the fragrant additive. It’s entirely possible that recipes exist on the Interwebs for lavender simple syrup, but I winged it because (a) again, that’s how I roll; and (b) honestly, they call it simple syrup for a really good reason.

Here, then, are Maia’s Basic Instructions For Making Lavender Simple Syrup:
  • Gather your ingredients. Simple syrup is one part sugar and one part water; I used about two cups of each, along with about this much lavender. (You can’t see my hands, but I’m holding them up to show maybe two tablespoons. To tell you the truth, I didn’t actually measure. I just shook some lavender off the top of the can. I shook out about enough to cover the surface of the water in my saucepan. So that’s about how much you should use.)
  • Bang them in a saucepan and stir them together.
  • Bring to the boil, stirring now and then so you feel like you’re contributing something to the process.
  • Turn the whole thing down and simmer it for a couple of minutes, stirring now and then, until all the sugar is dissolved and the mixture turns a pretty clear honey color.
  • Run it through a sieve to strain out the lavender.
I let my syrup cool while I cooked dinner, and then I put a couple of teaspoonfuls in one of the Champagne flutes we got as a wedding present (thanks, Kyra and Alex!), alternating with Champagne: A little wine, a splash of syrup, a little wine, a splash of syrup, and a final cap of wine.

Yes, that’s cheap store brand olive oil on our counter. Don’t hate. We’re trying to pay for a wedding.

The final product, I’m pleased to report, was just as good as the Musky’s, and at a grand total of $8.99 (plus maybe a dollar’s worth of lavender), I’m getting about four of these babies for the price of three-quarters of one mixed at the bar. And saving about a million billion dollars in gas by not driving 30 miles to get there in the first place. Oh, and since I ended up with about two cups (or so... whatever fits in the not-quite-the-smallest Rubbermaid container), there’s plenty more for many, many nights of Bogalusa Belle knockoff consumption.

And yes, I said “getting.” I’m two deep in homemade Bogalusa Belles and I intend to finish the bottle before the evening is through. Apparently there are like seven professional sports having big exciting playoffs right now, so I’m left alone to commune with the dog and my wedding projects while MLB enjoys some quality time with his TiVo. Ah, romance.

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