SUCCOTASH!

When you hear the word succotash what comes to your mind?

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Is it this?…Ew!, Not me.

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Could it be this?…”Sufferin’ succotassssh!” Classic.

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Or maybe even this catchy Dee-Lite jam “The Groove is in the Heart”?…”My supper dish, my succotash wish!” C’mon, I know you remember this one hit wonder. Don’t pretend you don’t.

Well, if you associate with any of the above when you hear the word “succotash” then you are ALL WRONG! AND NEED TO GET YOUR HEAD CHECKED!!! I am embarrassed for you. The only image that should come to your mind at the sound of that word is this, of course:

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That’s right! Succotash – The Inspired Southern Kitchen Restaurant. What else?

You know I am kidding right? I appreciate and respect all of my readers and bourbon lovers. But honestly, the right answer will always be Looney Tunes’, Sylvester the Cat. Nothing ever beats Looney Tunes…Nothing!

My wife and I recently ventured out to the National Harbor (Oxon Hill, MD – on the Potomac) and dined at Succotash for our anniversary. The restaurant, so named after the corn and lima bean southern staple, was recommended to me not only because of the remarkable southern style cuisine, but more importantly, their extensive bourbon selection. My wife started the evening by sampling an Influence Riesling and I of course enjoyed an Old Fashioned made with Woodford Reserve Bourbon, Demerara, Angustura Bitters and Regan’s Bitters. Interesting combination for an Old Fashioned that I hadn’t yet had the pleasure of tasting. It was delicious and reasonably priced at 12$ (again, thank you Woodford!).

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As I sipped my drink, I took time to observe the dining room and bar. Featured were “flourishes reminiscent of architecture in Savannah, New Orleans and Kentucky. Elaborate wrought iron design, wood-coffered ceilings and vintage brickwork juxtapose contemporary artwork throughout the space”  as their homepage so appropriately described. I lived in the New Orleans area for five years (Slidell, across the Pontchartrain) and the dining room and bar motif at Succotash certainly invoked memories of some of the establishments I once patronized in the French Quarter.

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After the drinks we shared an order of smoked chicken wings and then it was time for the mains. I ordered the southern classic, shrimp and grits. Now, I consider myself sort of a shrimp and grits connoissuer. I order it any time its on the menu no matter where I am. The best shrimp and grits I ever tasted was from Slightly North of Broad (SNOB) in Charleston, SC.  I haven’t anything that comes close, if I am being honest. Succotash’s version was very delicious and uniquely different (see below) . Succotash took the basic recipe and added their own flare which was quite delightful. I would consider their offering in my top 5 of all time, but SNOB still retains the Heavyweight belt.

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My wife enjoyed a seasonal corn chowder. Very appropriate for the beginning of autumn. She truly enjoyed the meal. Her plan is to attempt the recipe at home with similar ingredients. I am looking forward to seeing how it turns out.

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Outside of spending a lovely evening with my wife to celebrate our 13 years of marriage, selecting a tasty spirit from the vast bourbon list was the secondary mission. And I emphasize “a” tasty spirit meaning “one” and one only. As you can see from the menu below, some of the prices were quite steep. Of course, the labels I’ve already experienced happened to be the ones on the menu that were in the moderate price range (10-15$). Leaving me with only the top shelf, heavy hitters to choose from. I opted to sample Garrison Brothers which is a craft straight bourbon whiskey out of Texas. The listed menu price was 25$ a shot, but I never had the pleasure of experiencing it before so I was looking forward to broadening my horizons. After taking several sips and allowing the spirit to dance around my mouth and over my tongue, I waited for the flavor profiles to reveal themselves. Unfortunately, they didn’t arrive as I expected from such a pricey whiskey. Don’t get me wrong I thought it was “good” but not worth the 25$ price. For a lack of a better explanation, I felt the flavor was somewhat bland, kind of like oatmeal. It had some spice yet seemed to be absent of any distinctive or recognizable character.  I was a little underwhelmed but not at all disappointed in giving it a try.

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I believe the National Harbor location is the only Succotash restaurant of this variety. I hope they decide to expand their business. I think it would be very successful. So in closing, my recommendation to you if you are in the Washington DC area, would be to treat yourself and make time to get over to the National Harbor and dine at Succotash. If you are a Bourboneer like myself then you will be impressed, not only by the food and architecture of the southern style setting, but of course by their extensive selection of bourbon. Maybe I will see you there. If so, the first bourbon is on me!

 

-The Bourboneer

 

Bourbon enjoyed while writing this article: Tin Cup American Whiskey, 42% ABV or 84 proof (NAS), Tin Cup Whiskey, Denver, CO.

Definitions:

  1. Demerara – a golden syrup made of turbinado sugar.
  2. Regan’s Bitters – orange bitters infused with cinnamon and cloves.

 

Thank You Woodford!

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Woodford Reserve small batch Distiller’s Select is, more or less, the reason behind my renewed desire for bourbon. The coup d’etat, you could say, of my perception of the spirit and honestly the genesis of The Bourboneer. And yes, I am man enough to say…Woodford was my first (in a matter of speaking).

I’ve enjoyed bourbon for over 25 years, beginning in my college days. Back then however, I had no appreciation whatsoever for the characteristics of the distilled spirit. The goal was a constant consumption of any bourbon I could afford and what mixer I could pour into it to improve the taste. Believe it or not, I did like the taste of bourbon over other whiskies but the true flavor was lost on me. Like the majority of students, “drinking” was much more about the quantity and effect rather than the quality and flavor. Needless to say, my “budget” at the time only afforded me the less expensive labels or what some may have considered to be of poor quality or even “rotgut.” Today, I better understand that price is not always the plumb line for a decent bourbon. Back then I considered Old Crow, Evan Williams, Early Times and Old Grand Dad to be close friends because they were readily available and cheap. I couldn’t and didn’t care to appreciate the difference. They served a purpose, albeit an extremely narrow one.

Unfortunately, this sophomoric approach to bourbon remained my “MO” until about a five years ago. Even as a professional, who could afford to sample a variety of bourbon at different price points, I still floundered about with what I knew. With what I allowed myself to know, that is. That all changed when I was introduced to Woodford Reserve.

As we did on a regular occasion, my good friend and neighbor often joined me to not only drink and shoot the breeze, but to gripe about some of our common interests; the Philadelphia Eagles being one. One evening in particular, however, my neighbor showed up with a brand new bottle of Woodford Reserve bourbon. I had never heard of it before but he raved on and on about it. Of course I obliged, not necessarily because I wanted to broaden my “bourbon horizons” at the moment, but when such hospitality is offered then equal gratitude is returned.

Despite my immediate urge to add something to the bourbon, my neighbor recommended I just enjoy a dram on the rocks. Hold on here, wait just a minute. This went against everything I knew. No soda, no ginger ale? I actually recall thinking this may, in fact, be the last time he is allowed over here. No one tells me how to drink in my house! Internal angst aside, I did step out of my comfort zone and took a sip. His sage advice not to “shoot”, but allow the bourbon to gently cascade over my tongue was the trick to tasting the full flavor. It worked. The anticipated “burn” that I associated with all whiskey, never came. As a matter of fact, I experienced quite the opposite. Surprisingly enough, the customary sting or bite was replaced by an unexpected soothing warmth. The presence of the ice seemed to open up a bouquet of flavor I didn’t even know existed and had been hidden from me for nearly a quarter century. Even to my then uneducated palate, I could taste the nuance of cinnamon spice and a subtle smoky char. This was quite a revelation. Bourbon that had taste and wonderful taste at that. What the hell have I foolishly been missing for so long? Then, remarkably, the spice gradually faded into a silky sweetness of what seemed like caramel and toffee. WTF!?! No way. This is amazing! Candy in my bourbon!?! Absolutely the most refreshing characteristic and something so contrary to what I remembered bourbon to be was how easy Woodford was to drink. Each sip was like discovering buried treasure and now I had the map.

From that evening on, I was hooked. I almost felt a little stalker-ish the way I coveted Woodford. In fact, that’s all I bought for a long time. I think I was afraid to try other labels in fear of experiencing a let down. But once I regained a firm grip on reality, I realized the “bourbon education” that first glass of Woodford provided me, was the doorway to a brave new world just waiting for my arrival.

So, to my friends at Woodford Reserve, thank you for such a proper introduction to the world of bourbon. Just know that all I do with my future, in relation to bourbon and as The Bourboneer, began with that first sip of Woodford Reserve. And yes, I am aware that authentic experience several years ago could have easily been with another fine bourbon label from the dozens out there, but it wasn’t. It was with Woodford and I am thankful for that. I am also quite thankful for my neighbor not only for the introduction but his insistence. I owe him a lot.

 

-The Bourboneer

 

Bourbon enjoyed while writing this article: Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select KSBW. 43.2%ABV or 96.4 proof (no age statement). Woodford Reserve Distillery, Versailles, KY.