Pairing Cocktails at Boucherie

Every summer around this time I return home from New Orleans recharged.

This year, representing Piedmont Distillers, I was tasked with creating a signature cocktail to pair with the vinegary twang of Carolina barbecue.  I could use any of the Junior Johnson's Midnight Moon infusions (cranberry, strawberry, blueberry, cherry, apple pie) from the case which magically landed on my porch. Thank you Sarah LeRoy!

Because their roots thrive in the acidic soil of eastern North Carolina, I chose blueberry, a "superfood" full of anti-oxidants. For the past few months I had been experimenting with muddling lemon grass in cocktails and the notion of calling one the Blue Grass Moon brought a smile to my face. It called forth visions of banjos and beautiful women dancing around a campfire, all warmed from within by the triple-distilled spirits.

As I puttered around my kitchen, experimenting with proportions and sinking deeper in my cups, I was tempted to grab my wife and run around outside like children howling at the moon.

before the mess in my kitchen

When the day of the event finally arrived, I met Texan Sly Cosmopoulos and Kansas City tender Berto Santoro in the lobby of the Hotel Monteleone for a ride to Boucherie, the restaurant hosting the meal as part of the Spirited Dinner series of Tales of the Cocktail.

Sly and Berto before the show
Chef Nathanial Zimet began Boucherie out of a food truck called The Que Crawl, a.k.a. "a romp through BBQ country." The business became a favorite of many, including artist Rebecca Rebouche, whose eyes lit up when I mentioned it. These days, Boucherie lives in a renovated home on Jeannette Street. With James Denio at the helm crafting delicious cocktails, the space routinely books up weeks in advance. In retrospect, it was the perfect venue for a themed dinner called Barbecue Coast-to-Coast.

8115 Jeannette St, New Orleans

Sly, Berto, and I spent a few hours prepping for the over fifty cocktails we would later make on the fly as Zimet's corresponding course hit the servers' hands. The night sold out, the menu was terrific, and everyone attending enjoyed a night fit for kings and queens of old.

I spent the next few days wandering New Orleans as if in a dream. An old friend, Brad Kunkle, flew down to hang, and as much as I love everything about Tales of the Cocktail, I steered clear of most of the events. I've had media passes on four previous occasions and spent most of my time in seminars and some of the most lavish parties ever imagined. This time around, I wanted to know if my lingering love affair for the city itself had any real substance. Visit back in a few weeks to find out. Until then, next time you're making drinks, how about a pitcher of Blue Grass Moon?

Blue Grass Moon menu card

signed menu from the night

Interview: Celia Rivenbark

originally published November 2011

Syndicated humor columnist and author of five previous books with 

titles like You Can't Drink All Day if You Don't Start in the Morning, Celia Rivenbark's says her secret weapon is having her fourteen-year-old daughter to update her website. 

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Celia and I at The Fortunate Glass

"My daughter will be studying, and I'm like, 'what is wrong with you? Snookie is in trouble!' she jokes, before turning serious. "I'm consumed with pop culture. If my People Magazine is one hour late, I'm hunting down the mailman and it's not pretty." 

Sitting down with Celia makes an hour feel like five minutes. Abandoning my boring questions, I decided to sit back and listen.

"It's so shallow, I know," she said, "But Snookie pulls me in. Studying? I never studied. I had one hundred eighty kids in our graduating class and I was 90th. I did just enough to get by. My daughter, she's the most responsible member of our household. She just signed up for sign language club. I'm like, 'Oh honey that's really admirable.' But I'm thinking, Is cheer-leading out of style completely?"

Maybe there's some other motivation, like a cute boy?

"I asked... Don't think I didn't ask. 'No,' she said, 'Mommy, I think it could be really great because that way if there are deaf kids at high school I could help them talk to the teacher,' and I'm like, "Who are you and where did you come from?"

What are you working on?

"My next book, already under contract, is a funny look at etiquette. I'm thinking of calling it That's Not a Salad Fork, You Stupid &*#$."

Plans for the holidays?

"I pay no attention to Christmas. It's a big pain. No, actually, we always go to my mother-in-law's. Stockings hung by the chimney with care and home-made coconut cake."

Tell me about your big break?

"My first book Bless your Heart, Tramp was published in 2000, and I sold it out of the trunk of my car wherever two or more gathered. Nan Graham and I wrangled a gig on the John Wayne radio show and happened to mention our signing in Charlotte. We were used to five people showing up, but this place was packed. After that everything changed. We both sold a load of books which led to an agent calling to ask if she could represent me. In two weeks, she sold it and had me under contract for another." 
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"I did okay. Not bad for a high school diploma, right?"

Have you found your dream job?

"No, I always wanted to write program synopsis for the TV Guide. I would quit all this in a second if they'd have me. But I'd tell them what I was going to do. I'd write about Dexter. A lovable serial killer, what's not to love? And, Mad Men, of course. And Breaking Bad; the absolute best!" 

Read anything good lately? Books, fan mail?

"There are a few books I can remember weeping because I didn't want them to end. The Stand was one. The Corrections and Prince of Tides were others. I absolutely wept because I thought I was never going to read anything better. But, then I did. Luckily, with my newspaper column, I do get more positive feedback than negative, which is nice, because when you think about it, most people don't say "I'm going to write a letter saying I really enjoyed that. Most people are like, I hate her, I want her to die in her sleep, you know, and then they write the letter."

Want to read what she can't print in her humor column? Check out You Don't Sweat Much, For a Fat Girl, online at .