On Tasting Bourbon

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Bourbon doesn’t taste good.

I said it.

I meant it.

And I’ll stand by my statement.

Bourbon doesn’t taste good.

A few weeks back, I found myself sniffing, swirling, and sipping bourbon at a distillery in Kentucky. I would never claim to have a refined or well-rounded palate, but I think I cook and eat enough randomness to have a minute amount of skill in the tasting department.

I’m relatively certain that I sat in the same room with 14 other ‘novice’ tasters sipping the very same acid bourbon, but the story went something like this:

“Citrus, cherries, vanilla bean,” the heavily mustached expert described the flavors that were supposedly coating our tongues (and burning my tonsils).

No, nope, no way. I thought quietly to myself as everyone else nodded in agreement. You guys are all tasting citrus-scented cherries right now? I felt increasingly doubtful as my esophagus continued to disintegrate.

“Black pepper, burnt tobacco leaf, and butterscotch?” the professional drinker questioned to see who among the group had true bourbon-tasting skills.

Not. Even. A. Little. I started to question his actual understanding of the vile liquid he was so poetically describing. The liars amongst me continued to nod. Apparently, everyone else was sipping something completely different…and it sounded a lot more tasty than the caramel-colored floor cleaner that I was attempting to consume.

“…and banana? Are you getting the banana flavor now?” His final flavor was one that only the most experienced of the group should have been able to taste. Everyone oohed and aahed as the sudden tropical flavor overwhelmed their senses… supposedly.

Liars. Liars. Liars. I don’t even think the expert himself was tasting bananas. At this point, he was just listing any flavor that popped into his head.

Bourbon doesn’t taste good.

I said it.

I meant it.

Do you know what does taste good, though?

This pasta dish. That’s what. It’s full of sensible flavors and devoid of hidden banana smells and black pepper finishes. Plus, for those of us who eat with our eyes first, it’s pretty pretty.

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Pasta Primavera with Beets, Radishes, and Radicchio 
Source: FoodNetwork Magazine May 2015
Printable Recipe

12oz gemelli pasta (or corkscrew-shaped pasta)
1/3C olive oil
2T red wine vinegar
1 (8oz) package vacuum-packed cooked beats (reserve juice and slice beets)
pepper, salt
1 bunch radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced
1/2 head radicchio, cored and thinly sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2C fresh basil, chopped
1/2C coarsely grated ricotta salt cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions. Reserve 1/2C pasta water before draining.
While the pasta is cooking, whisk 2T olive oil, red wine vinegar, and beet juice in a bowl. Add a large pinch of salt and pepper. Add in sliced beets, radishes, and radicchio. Toss to coat.
Over medium-high flame, heat 3T olive oil. Add red onion, garlic, and a pinch of salt. Cook until onion is soft and translucent, about 4 minutes.
Once cooked, add onion mixture to the beet mixture. Toss to coat.
In a bowl, add cooked pasta, basil, 1/4C ricotta, and 1/2 of cooked cooking liquid to the beet mixture. Stir and taste. Add additional pasta water to adjust consistency if needed. Top with remaining ricotta.
Enjoy!

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One thought on “On Tasting Bourbon

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