Craft-tails, walk-abouts, juleps & dandelions

Craft-tails, walk-abouts, juleps & dandelions
Chris Aaland - 05/03/2018

Back in 2008, Food Network suckered me into a subscription to their magazine. At the time, Shelly and I were fans of the network’s programming (a viewing habit that has since waned). We considered cutting the ties but never succeeded in cancelling our subscription.

The recipes range from ridiculously easy quick weeknight cooking to complicated, all-day endeavors. Whether you’re a beginner on a budget or a classically trained chef, there’s something for everyone in each issue.

The magazine also serves as essential bathroom reading. Sitting on my throne last Sunday, I turned to a three-recipe section on Tex-Mex cooking by noted Iron Chef Stephanie Izard. Right there on Page 88 was a two-page teaser photo of homemade masa chips, an avocado smash and a “Modus Mandarita.”

The locavore in me immediately thought the chef was referencing Modus Mandarina, Ska’s citrusy IPA. Flipping the page, I read that “Stephanie uses Modus Mandarina, an IPA that gives the drink a touch of bitterness and makes it nice and bubbly.” The recipe called for 3⁄4 cup sugar, 1/3 cup strained pineapple juice, 2/3 cup brine from pickled Fresno chiles (plus pickled chiles for serving), coarse salt to rim the glasses, 8 oz. silver tequila, 3 oz. fresh lime juice (plus wedges for serving) and 4 ounces Modus Mandarina IPA.

I quickly texted a photo from the magazine to Ska’s overlord, Dave Thi-bodeau, who was recovering from his 50-mile run on his 50th birthday a week ago. Dave immediately replied, asking, “Was it by Stephanie Izard of The Girl & The Goat in Chicago??” Apparently, she is a Ska junkie.

Margaritas are the go-to cocktails in early May, what with Cinco de Mayo and all. Unless you’re stuck in Cuervo margarita mix hell (let’s call those syrupy concoctions what they are – weak adult slurpees), the marg is the canvas to color your soul. My go- to Friday evening standard features 2 shots of gold tequila, 1 shot blanco, a half shot Gran Marnier, a splash of orange curacao, juice from half a lime, a shot of Rose’s lime juice and ice in a salted glass garnished with a lime wedge. Another that I occasionally sip simply blends 2 shots of blanco, 1 shot Cointreau and juice from one lime over ice.

Margaritas go with lazy days at festivals, too. My bluegrass buddy Dan schooled 5-year-old Otto in making them up on Reservoir Hill at Pagosa Folk’n Bluegrass. Dan recruited Otto to slice and squeeze key limes and grind ice while he made a bubbly tequila spritzer that relied on Fresca soft drinks. Meanwhile, over the pass in Telluride, my hurtin’ Albertan pal Billy Bob blended sweet, tangy, juicy margaritas with 4 parts orange juice, 2 parts tequila and 1 part each lemon juice and triple sec.

Salted rim or sugared? Frozen or on the rocks? Patron or Don Julio?

There is no wrong answer.

The 2018 Durango Wine Experience brings three crazy days of food and wine to town Thursday through Saturday. High-lights include the Walk-About Durango from 4-7 p.m. Friday and the Grand Tasting from 3-6:30 p.m. Saturday, which moves under the festival tent at the Smiley Building Courtyard this year.

The first Ska-B-Q of the season starts at 5 p.m. today (Thurs., May 3), featuring a fully operational outdoor bar and tasty food from The Container. Music will be by Durango bluegrass/Americana act, the StillHouse Junkies, who released their debut CD, “Over the Pass,” at Meltdown a few weeks back.

The Powerhouse Science Center hosts its inaugural Durango Derby fundraiser from 2-6 p.m. Saturday. Those of legal drinking age are encouraged to dress in the finest Kentucky Derby attire and enjoy an afternoon of music, gambling and Mint Juleps. There’s also a Best Hat Contest for those who like to play competitive dress-up.

A few blocks south, BREW Pub & Kitchen has planned a Saturday afternoon that blends Cinco, the Derby and the Durango Wine Experience, giving you the chance to chase your margarita with a julep and a glass of merlot – or, simply stick with Jesus, whose resurrection was too late for Easter this year.

Narrow Gauge Day takes place from 11 a.m. - 2 p.m. Friday outside the Durango depot. While free hot dogs, chips, sodas and a performance by the Bar D Wranglers is what attracts folks, people should really be excited that the annual celebration signals the start of daily train service to Silverton. (The first train pulls out of the depot at 8:45 a.m. Saturday) which, of course, means the start of tourist season.

It’s a first Friday again, which means Steamworks will tap its monthly firkin at 3 p.m. May means Hotpricot, which is a fruity, spicy ale. “The Hotpricot will be similar to a collaboration we did in years past with Dry Dock Brewing Co. when we blended elements of our Prescribed Burn – our popular chile beer – with their very popular Apricot Blonde Ale,” brewmaster Ken Martin explained. “The sweet, caramel maltiness of the Steam should pair nicely with the delicate apricot character and a nice heat from the same chile puree that we use for the Prescribed Burn.”

Finally, the Dandelion Festival features live music, organic food, dandelion beer, a healing dome and much more from 1-9 p.m. Sunday in Rotary Park.

The 10th solo album from Jesse Dayton, “The Outsider,” is not only the best thing I’ve heard this week, it’s the best thing I’ve heard in years. Dayton plays hardscrabble honky tonk better than anyone. He’s just about the hottest hand around, having played acoustic, electric and slide guitar on albums by outlaws from Cash, Waylon and Willie to Rob Zombie, the Supersuckers, John Doe and X (he fills in for cancer-stricken Billy Zoom on the punk icon’s tours). As a southeast Texas boy, he has the audacity to simultaneously channel George Jones and Waylon. He’s also the blue collar, liberal champion of the Gulf Coast. Politically charged songs like “Belly of the Beast” and “Charlottesville” are among the angriest tunes yet released during Trump’s reign. Dayton has always had a soft spot for a catchy party jingle, and “Tried to Quit (But I Just Quit Tryin)” paints a hilarious picture of a honky-tonker serving the three vices of booze, women and reefer.

That Mexican lettuce sure gets you stoned? Email me at chrisa@gobrainstorm.net.


Craft-tails, walk-abouts, juleps & dandelions

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