Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Best in Cheddar

If you do something three years in a row, it's enough to call it a tradition.

Since 2006, my friend Suzanne and I have gotten together on the 2nd Tuesday in February to crowd around the T.V. in my small apartment and watch the annual Westminster Dog Show. We drink bourbon while we coo at the dogs (except the poodles) and laugh at the big-boned trainers awkwardly running around the floor with their coiffured dogs. It's a good time.

I can't remember what we ate on Valentine's Day in 2006 to accompany our bourbon, but I do recall that last year I introduced Suzanne to Lower Eastsiders, a delicious cocktail of bourbon, Dr. Brown's Cream Soda, and a wedge of lime. It's the bi-cultural invention of Mo' Pitkins House of Satisfaction, a hip Jewish-Latin restaurant on Ave. A in the East Village. As my friend Rich said about the drink, it's all that we need to help the bourbon go down more easily! With the cocktails, we ate a zippy salad of radishes, lime juice, and red onion and a black bean dip, covered with baked Cheddar cheese--of course--from Fine Cooking.

This year I tried out a new bourbon cocktail, and I pushed the Cheddar theme. The bourbon cocktail also came from an East Village restaurant, Peter Hoffman's new and conscientious Back Forty. I enjoyed the eponymous cocktail's seasonal mixture of bourbon and maple syrup, but Suzanne reverted back to the Lower Eastsiders after just one Back Forty. But she heartily enjoyed all my Cheddar cocktail snacks: pimento-stuffed olives baked in Cheddar dough (The Gourmet Cookbook), Bite-Size Blue Ball Cheese Balls (Amy Sedaris' hilarious but unexpectedly practical I Like You: Hospitality under the Influence), and spicy cheese straws (the Lee brothers in the New York Times).

The retro snacks were perfect for the bourbon cocktails and for the occasion. They matched the timeless frumpy-ness of the dog trainers and their ill-fitting suits, and they hearkened back to a time when bras and girdles were not as well engineered as they are today. I wouldn't know about this, but Suzanne, who has experience, would gladly advise the trainers on proper undergarments to prevent bouncing and flouncing on their nervous runs around the ring. Unlike bras, Cheddar can be at its best when it doesn't try to modernize itself and go with the times. Like the dogs on show, Cheddar is a classic.

I can see myself making these treats again next year. If they appear again in February 2010, we've got a tradition on our hands.

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