Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Andy's Maple-Basil Mojito And An Unforgettable Meal

"When you've eaten a perfect meal,
you know it,
you don't feel it"
~ Curnonsky  
I've been wanting to write about one of the best meals I've ever had but struggled to find the words to best describe my experience. Then, I saw this quote.  It's perfect!
* * *
Early one morning, I came downstairs and began my daily ritual of turning on the coffee machine, sitting at the counter, slipping on my readers, flipping up my laptop, scanning my e-mails, and yawning. While waiting for the coffee to finish brewing, I noticed an unfamiliar address so I decided to open that email first.
Cool! I perked up when I read a dinner invitation from Erin and Andy whom I'd just met in a food writing class. I started reading the menu. My mouth dropped. I moved in closer to get a better look. As I read on about the four course "maple-centric" menu with selective micro-brew pairings, I leaned in even closer, as if in disbelief . . . was I reading this correctly? The menu sounded so amazing, I could have fallen off my chair! I yelled to my husband to come quickly and read the menu to him.  I excitedly asked, do you want to go? I knew I did and wanted to respond immediately before seats filled up. He said, "yes"!
By the end of that day, my reservation was confirmed and I looked forward to this meal for two weeks. It sounded like an amazing meal and quite ambitious. But I knew, after meeting Erin and Andy in our writing class, that they could do it. I sensed their passion and love for food from our conversations in class. 
The Meal
The day of the highly anticipated dinner arrived. It started at four in the afternoon and began with Andy's Maple-Basil Mojito. Andy is the cocktail and beer aficionado of the team. He greeted the guests and made these fresh mojitos as we arrived. I sipped this refreshing beverage and enjoyed meeting other guests before dinner was served.

While the guests mingled, Erin was chopping and cutting and was very social, far more relaxed than I would have been under the circumstances . . . a four course dinner for eleven! She was enjoying herself and was very prepared. Everything was fresh and local, purchased the day before at the winter farmers' market. 

First Course
We took a seat at the table and the first course was served, Winter Squash Bisque with Housemade Maple Creme Fraiche, Chives and Fuller's Extra Special Bitter - Best Bitter. Andy shared his thoughts about his choice of drink and I think the pairing was perfect. The soup was silky and flavorful. As I looked around at the smiles and listened to pleasant remarks, I knew I was going to experience something special that night.

Second Course
The next course was Brussels Sprouts Gratin with Maple Caramelized Shallots and Parmesan. It was served with Brewed on the Premises Porteree - Porter with Nutmeg. The textures, flavors, and aromas of the meal were now starting to affect my senses. The brussels sprouts had a creamy tenderness. Just wonderful!

Third Course
The sun was starting to set and the conversation was picking up. We were all beginning to relax and learn more about each other. Before long, conversation returned to the food and, forgetting what was to be served next, I glanced down at the elegantly printed menu laying to the side of my setting . . . Short Ribs with Maple Bourbon Sauce, Maple Mashed Sweet Potatoes paired with Left Hand Fade to Black 2 - Smoked Baltic Porter. This dish was rich, delicious, and satisfying!

Fourth Course
This course, Maple Infused Pot De Creme,  Almond Praline with North Coast Brewing Brother Thelorious - Belgian Style Abbey Alecame after a pleasant break where we searched further into each others' pasts, passions, and futures. We were writers, students, professors, artists, restauranteurs, artisans . . . . and we were there because we all love food. Fresh food. I started to smell the praline cooking. We all started to notice the aroma and exchanged expressions of delight. Once again, the table was cleared and with daylight quickly fading candles were lit, the perfect time to enjoy this fragrant dessert. The Pot De Creme's delicate creamy custard was topped with chunky pieces of sweet almond praline.

The night ended with a very nice dessert drink, Maple Macchiato with Cabin Fever Maple Whiskey. I loved the layers of this drink and how the rich flavors slowly and individually revealed themselves. It was completely dark out now and I was satisfied by this magnificent meal and evening. We toasted the meal, the chefs, the night. 

Andy's Maple-Basil Mojito
0.5 tsp maple syrup
1.5 oz 10 Cane Rum
4 large basil leaves, ripped
1/2 lime, juiced
Ice cubes
Soda water
Lime wedge, garnish
Basil sprig, garnish
Muddle syrup, rum, lime juice. Cover with ice 3/4 full. Top with soda water. Garnish.

Permission was granted to publish this post and recipe.


  1. Looks great! Thanks for sharing!!

  2. This is wonderful Lin..all the dishes look so tasty, and you served it perfectly!!! Thanks so much for sharing!!!

  3. Holy maple moley! This what I call bonding food. And it sounds like you did just that while grazing on this grand array of mapley magnificence! Even the brussels sprouts--which I don't ordinarily consume--look tempting. Lucky you to have been a part of such a fragrant, sensuous evening! :)

  4. That's an awsm display .. looks delicious! You had fun :)

  5. I love mojitos - and this one looks spectacularly good! Must try it!

  6. I'm so glad you found the words to share this amazing dining experience, Lin Ann.

    Each and every course sounds amazing!!! I love the theme, the premise and your excellent portrayal.

    Thank you so much for sharing...

  7. Hi Linn! Ready. Already fix the problem in translation. Now you can already read all my posts. Kiss!

  8. Love your take on our classic Mojito. I'm sure it tasted as good as it looks.

  9. An amazing meal for sure, wonderful winter flavors, love the sound of that dessert drink! And the maple-basil mojito sure sounds great!

  10. Thanks all! It truly was a great meal and night. And hope you try the drink - delicious!

    Thanks 10 Cane Rum, I'll let Andy know!

  11. Excellently written! It all sounds fantastic - I love evenings like that!

  12. Oh, my gosh! What a heavenly meal...I would like to sample absolutely everything!

  13. Can you send one of those mojitos my way please? :D