Proof positive the pros are like the rest of us … only better

the bar at Orson

I’m just home from a fun press dinner at Orson, where Blackboard Eats is offering subscribers a great deal on a special “Hotel California”-themed dinner of cocktail and menu pairings.

Chef Elizabeth Falkner entertained us with some hilarious stories, like about the time she met the actress Abigail Breslin, who enthusiastically snapped on a pair of latex gloves to dig into the big box that chef had constructed out of chocolate and filled with homemade candy treats, like homemade marshmallows and toffee. Each course of the adventurous menu, which included a smoked scallop with a corn puree and an out-there dessert that included ice cream studded with black olives, was paired with a cocktail that complemented the dish.

I’m a sucker for pisco, so the drink called “Your Alibi,” made from pisco, dry vermouth, lemon, sugar, and The Bitter Truth celery bitters, was a favorite …

"Your Alibi" pisco cocktail

But the “Far Away,” a not-too-sweet drink made of bourbon, muddled peach, mint, and just a bit of maple syrup, was a nice counterpoint to the maple-glazed roast pork, a rich and decadent dish that came with lightly pickled peaches.

"Far Away" cocktail

For me, however, the most interesting drink of the evening was  this unnamed cocktail, which came with our amuse bouche of Bloody Mary gazpacho.

In this drink, gin, lemon juice, and sugar were combined with a tomato and watermelon mignonette made from pureed heirloom tomatoes, watermelon, shallot, white wine vinegar, basil, and salt. I give the bar manager, Ian Adams, mad props for successfully combining ingredients I never would have dreamt of serving together in a cocktail. But what I especially love is that it was all done using leftover ingredients that needed to be used up, which is always my best inspiration in the kitchen, and I suspect that of thrifty home cooks everywhere. According to Ian, Elizabeth had made the mignonette for a previous event, where she had frozen it with liquid nitrogen to make a granita that was served with fresh raw oysters. This ingenious repurposing of ingredients inspires me to dig down to the bottom of my fridge and see what inspiration I find there. What should I do the quart of black olives taking over the bottom shelf of my fridge? And would it be possible to do something with all that fresh marinated mozzarella that’s on the cusp of going bad? We’ll see. Whether it’s filed under “cocktail concoctions” or “kitchen misadventures” I won’t hazard to guess.

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