Cold Gin Time Again

Eponymous suite life.

We always plan our road trip overnights to accommodate walking-distance martinis and dinner. The grail: both on-site, which turns out to be not always but surprisingly often achievable. A recent return trip to the Grand Canyon’s venerable El Tovar with its integral, equally venerable dining room, was an easy one. The surprise was the martinis garnering attention for themselves, no mean feat when the competition is the agelessly absorbing view of the snow-frosted South Rim.

Well martinis, rather than call brands, are our habit—I like to see what’s being poured out there under the rubric, and we’ve only a couple of times run into something utterly undrinkable. At El Tovar, it was apparent something was up with the gin, not in a bad way. Immediately there was a subtle but definite breath of cinnamon, putting me in mind of Nolet’s, but lighter, with plenty of herbals doing their off-gassing upper-palate thing. Delicious, in a word. We ordered a second round.


The distilled range.

Turns out the El Tovar’s house pour is Grand Canyon gin, thankyouverymuch, from the Grand Canyon Brewery & Distillery just down the road in Williams, a charming Route 66 railroad town.

Arizona is a quite craft beer-y state, but you may or may not know it’s also no slouch in the craft distillery category. We passed through Williams on our way to Winslow and stopped in for gin, beer, and a look around, noting for future the comfortable-looking bar in the center of the big rustic room—not overdone in luxe-barn style.

My beloved corrugated in rare interior application.

It’s worth taking a quick loop around the Williams Route 66 business district before turning off a block or two for the brewery/distillery, where the compound includes, among other things, an adjacent building that was undergoing major reno-construction when we were there, destined to be a barrel room. We’ll be back—maybe to check on that, but definitely to restock.

Mezzanine, rustic.

Corned Beef, Belated

Reuben al fresco.

Corned my own beef brisket, didn’t I. Finally, I hasten to add. Craig Claiborne put the home-corning bug in my ear back in the 1980s, when I read his typically careful, appetizing instructions in his Favorites Volume I, but when David Lebovitz recently revisited his own 2016 piece on the subject, I realized that this year was the year. I located my Brandt brisket, and confirmed I had all the seasonings.

Corned beef in-potential.

Except one! I just needed to nail down the dang pink curing salt. AMZN could deliver it two-day, but today would be SO much better, wouldn’t it. I had a pretty good idea how I might be able solve this little prob.

My friend and neighbor Ali happened at that moment to be in Jordan drinking tea with Bedouins. I messaged her. Momentarily, the word came back from the other side of the world, yes, she had pink salt in her pantry at home. And her visiting, pet-sitting mom would be happy to make the hand-off.

It was all very very now, very very today, with the tremendous additional delight of reminding me that there’s still a little magick in the old canyon—not only do I have a neighbor who 1. even knows what I mean when I say pink salt, but 2. has it in her pantry.

I’m not going to provide a recipe procedural, because anyone interested can find everything needed right up there in David Lebovitz’ link. What I will say: DO IT DO IT DO IT DO IT! Completely and utterly worth it. Would be worth doing even if it was complicated and difficult. It is, however, simple and easy.

Full Monty Reuben.

Postscript: Not all beef, understatement alert, is Brandt-level good. The incredible melting richness of my results is due in unknown degree to Brandt quality. I would likely, or at least maybe, give it a try with the prime grade in-the-bag brisket that Costco often has, I assume for the barbecue/smoker cohort. Especially since next time I plan to corn and then smoke, aiming for something that one hopes ends up quite very much like pastrami, and there is not a whit not a mote not an iota of shame in trial runs with slightly less expensive ingredients.

Post-postcript: The only corned beefs I’ve ever cooked that were anywhere near as good as this one I corned myself have been from Robert’s Corned Meats in San Francisco. I know that if I’d visited the City this spring and been able to coordinate ferrying home a Robert’s brisket, I would have put off making my own for yet another year.

Strawberry New Year

As I’ve written (frequently) elsewhere, supermarket touristing is a vital part of any travel, for me. A micro road trip the other day to San Diego included not only a great dinner at Ruth’s Chris and a fab late breakfast at Tip Top Meat in Carlsbad, but also, as we wended our way home, a very small detour to a nearly brand-new WinCo Foods in Oceanside. We were low on at least two important things: Guittard chocolate chips, which WinCo has at an eye-poppingly low price, and individually-sealed teabags from the prodigious bulk department that are necessities in my travel kit. Plus, I, perhaps beyond reason, just plain ♥♥♥ WinCo. Their gigantic onions, e.g. Whether white, purple, yellow, plaid—they are absolute units of beauty and freshness.

This time, Mapie’s (as I call Gmaps’ know-all narrator, after Countess de Toulouse-Lautrec, the author of La Cuisine de France) typically slightly outré route sent us past a sweet little strawberry stand. If you know anything about California, you might know that while strawberry stands abound, they are not every one of them sweet. We said, if we come back by this corner, we’ll stop. And so we did, to buy what turned out to be some of the best-tasting and best-looking strawberries ever, with peak season months away, and also our first of the new year. Is this an off-to-a-good-start harbinger? MAYBE.