Monday, December 13, 2010

FoodTrek: Have a Very Merry LUPEC and a Happy NovoFogo Year

Is it wrong that I ring in the holidays with booze? Naaaaah... I didn't think so either. It is wrong, however, that I had been such a stranger to Seattle's LUPEC Ladies and their monthly meetings of celebratory cocktails. But I braved deadlines and work-related obstacles to attend the final LUPEC meeting of 2010. It was held at one of my favorites, Chantanee's bar, Naga and hosted by the talented folks of Novo Fogo, who distill the heavenly sugar cane spirits of cachaça. Ready to jingle all the way with a cocktail in hand? Jingle bell rock, my friendos.

Say it with me now: ka-SHAH-sa. Now drink. - Photo by Wasabi Prime

So what the heck is cachaça and more importantly, how do I pronounce it, because that little squiggly thing below the "c" is freaking me out. Firstly, it's a spirit made directly from the extracted juice from sugarcane, unlike rums which are made from molasses, a by-product of sugar. Because of that, cachaça has a little more of a crisp, clean flavor, but can also take on flavor notes of the barrels it ages in, much like other spirits or wines. And it's pronounced ka-SHAH-sa, and the little squiggle is called a cedilla, in case that Double Jeopardy question comes up anytime soon. Take that, Trebek!

Dragos Axinte of Novo Fogo, most definitely having the most awesome name in the world, presented both their silver and aged cachaça, both organic and both delicious. We were able to sample them on their own to appreciate their unique flavors before they were mixed in cocktails. The Silver was refreshing and crisp, smelling of floral and banana notes, with a really clean finish. Very summery and made me wish I was on a beach. The Aged is a golden hue, a sign of its two year nap in bourbon casks. Mellow, rich, a bit smoky -- absolutely sippable on a cold winter's night. Both the Silver and Aged are perfect for the signature drink of Brazil, the Caipirinha, but the talents of Chantanee's Evan Martin had other plans for the cocktail menu.

Eat, drink, be merry. Repeat. - Photos by Wasabi Prime

I have much love for Chantanee's food. Their Thai food makes me crave it fortnightly, wanting to do the insane Scottish accent from Mike Myers' dad in So I Married an Axe Murderer, when he rants about craving KFC at unseemly hours. So it was double, triple, quadruple happiness to have beautiful food paired with beautiful cocktails. And you'd think the strong flavors would have to battle it out, but it all went marvelously together. Evan composed a drink menu that included a Negroni Doce (Novo Fogo Silver, Aperol, Rose Vermouth, grapefruit bitters), Brasilian Grog (Novo Fogo aged, Pimento Dram, honey, Cointreau, orange, lime, coffee tincture), and the Quentao (Novo Fogo Aged, ginger syrup, hot mulled cider, cinnamon). The Negroni Doce was picture-perfect, fragrant and tart, going well with the fresh salad rolls and pumpkin samosas. The tropical citrus of the Brasilian Grog paired nicely with the kick of garlic chicken, pad ki mao and spicy tofu. Dessert was the Quentao itself, which was a warm, holiday-perfect drink. Maybe it's the time of year, but the Quentao was my favorite of the night, only because it totally fit the Christmas frame of mind I was in. I would have never thought to use cachaça beyond more tropical cocktails, and so -- as always -- the LUPEC meetings are both educational and inspiring for my liver.

I kept the spirit of the holidays in my heart and admired some of the Christmas decorations around downtown Bellevue. I wandered to the nearby Bravern to admire their lights and giant Christmas tree. It was a good reminder to slow down, take a moment to take in the twinkle of a sparkly light, and don't get too wrapped up in the madness of the holidays. Which I know I'll completely forget five minutes later as I throw myself into a hissy fit over my holiday to-do list. But at least I took one night to just be a person taking in the sights on a cold winter's night.

Be merry and bright  this Xmas - Photos by Wasabi Prime

Big Wasabi Thanks to LUPEC Seattle for organizing a great end of year gathering, and to Novo Fogo and Chantanee for making it such an incredible evening.

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  1. Excellent storytelling and pictures as always, Denise. It was great having you there - thanks for the love!

  2. Thanks for coming ladies.

    Chantanee Thai

  3. great write up! And I'm glad you joined us as it really had been too long!


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