Bittersweet Bourbon Heritage Month (A Bourbon Themed Meal)

September 2011

The Month

This isn’t a term paper, so I’m going to go ahead and reference wikipedia to bring you this amazing tidbit about America.

National Bourbon Heritage Month is an observance in the United States that calls for celebration of bourbon as America’s “Native Spirit”. On August 2, 2007, the US Senate declared September 2007 as “National Bourbon Heritage Month.” The bill, sponsored by Republican Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky, passed by unanimous consent. The resolution calls for consumers who enjoy bourbon to do so responsibly and in moderation. The bill reinforces the 1964 Act of Congress that declared bourbon “America’s Native Spirit” by celebrating the family heritage, tradition and deep-rooted legacy that the bourbon industry contributes to the United States.

I may have been late to discover the shocking revere the US Senate has for my newly, yet quickly, acquired spirit of choice, but I had just enough time for a proper, bourbon themed commemoration.

There was someone for whom I had been wanting to prepare an elaborate meal.  Timing made the meal a bit more bittersweet than I intended, but I went ahead with my plan and gussied up a table for two.

The Dinner

The Menu

The breakdown of that menu…

The Cocktail

The Rolls
(Click here for my recipe)
(Adapted from here)

The Pulled Pork
(Click here for the recipe)

I have an affinity for pulled pork, but of course, I’m picky about where the pig wandered in its wandering days, what it ate and what types of sauces lend to that fall-apart-on-a-fork quality I love so much.  It was high time I just made my own.  The hunk o’ pork that weighed down my market bag came from the trusted folks at Pittsburgh’s only organic farmers market

My dedication to this meal was such that I took a bus to Whole Foods to ensure I would have organic liquid smoke and enough time for the afternoon of cooking.  If you have ever taken a Pittsburgh public bus, you know the level of dedication I am referencing.

Next time I’d add more cocoa to this mix covering my hand, and in the end, I’d probably add more bourbon too!

The pork present…

The Cake
(Click here for the cake recipe)
(Click here for the buttercream and ganache recipes)

Remember the new mixer, the gifted mixer that made me cry an almost equal mix of utter happiness and complete sadness?  Remember that beautiful, buttery inaugural whirl?  The buttery rosette splatter became the batter for what I am calling a Bittersweet & Salty Bourbon Chocolate Cake.

The title is indicative of the ingredients:  dark, dark chocolate with salted almonds, but the title also fits in the vein of Like Water for ChocolateBaking and emotions are inseparable, and sadness may be a tangible taste.  At least in this case, the sadness was decadent and delicious.  Please pardon my melodrama and allow me to indulge.

I won’t give him full credit for the special bourbon place in my heart and jam jar (because the first time the fancy truly struck me was in the South), but he did indeed foster the flavor.  Hence in my planning of the meal I would make him, bourbon had the spotlight, but bittersweet saltiness stole the show.

This cake would have been baked with love, but he broke my heart.

Like the dark chocolate, approaching friendship with him when I wanted all of him, was bittersweet and filled me with salty tears.  I attempted to bake my way through it, to make something beautiful of something sad.

It was something beautiful.

But it was also something sad, and before I even cut one slice, I was overcome with sadness.

In the end, we didn’t even eat the cake together at that gussied up table.  I couldn’t.  He took his piece and went on his way.  I stared through tears at the tiers of chocolate, cut my own slice and stared some more.  Part of me envisioned throwing the decadent layers from my third floor window and the satisfaction I would feel as chocolate smashed all over the street.  I could never do that though.  Instead I shared the slices with a friend who knew all too well what I was feeling, a friend who dreams of the very place that turned me onto bourbon and a friend celebrating another year of life.  I was still hoping for something beautiful for this cake despite the sadness I was feeling.

Can the baker ever be removed from the baked good?  Does the emotion bake out with the alcohol?  Does each slice have a slightly decadent hint of sadness?  This would probably be true if it weren’t for chocolate.

Thanks be to the gods for the gift of dark, dark, bittersweet chocolate that works in perfect harmony with salty tears and salted almonds.

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