A bit of confusion seems to be the norm whenever there’s a “national day” for something — cheese, smelt, hunting, booze, whatever — because everyone has their own little slice of the pie.
So it seems that today is International Whisk(e)y Day to celebrate the beverage that’s been around for who knows how long. Apparently, World Whisky Day is May 16 this year, and of course “the world” is different from “international” (How? Don’t ask.) so there are two events. Today’s International Whisk(e)y Day is a celebration and a chance to donate to Parkinson’s research in memory of Michael Jackson, the late veteran writer for Whisky Advocate.
I’ve never been one to pass up a nice glass of brown water, be it whiskey or bourbon or whatever other pour is offered. In time, I’ve learned to eschew all the sugary soda crap — no Crown and Coke or Jack and Sprite, thank you — and enjoy a couple of fingers neat or with a cube of ice.
One of the most memorable evenings happened a few years ago in Youngstown, N.Y., at a pub with history dating back more than 350 years. The Ontario House, aka “The Stone Jug,” has been an establishment since before the War of 1812 and was burned by the dirty Brits when they invaded our country. The Stone Jug was rebuilt in 1842 out of stone and still stands on Main Street in Youngstown, which is just 11 miles north of Niagara Falls and five minutes or so from Fort Niagara, which has stood for almost 330 years defending the westermost tip of New York overlooking Lake Ontario where the Niagara River meets the lake.
Two friends of mine and I were in Lewiston, just a few miles down the road, for a few days of great smallmouth and steelhead fishing with Capt. Frank Campbell. We popped over to Youngstown for supper and then into the The Stone Jug for a drink. A few regulars propped up the bar. The bartender was polite and had a generous pour. A round of Jameson for us, we decided. Straightforward, old school, nothing fancy, just like The Stone Jug’s gorgeous wooden back bar and thick bar we were leaning on, and we just enjoyed quietly the nice few moments there. Three pals, no stress, quiet conversation without ferns, brass, bells whistles and whatnot. We had a second round.
When you walk out of The Stone Jug on Main, you overlook the Niagara River, and Canada just a mile away. Youngstown was formally established in 1726 — 50 years before the Declaration of Independence — and prior had been well known as a meeting point for fur traders. The Iroquois (Six Nations) and other native Americans knew it well, too. When you stand on the corner of that old stone pub, you’re standing in history. There may not have been an official Stone Jug 350 or so years ago, but I suspect the fur traders and native Americans probably imbibed a little bit at that Youngstown outpost overlooking the river. Which is cool, and that’s worth the tip of a glass, in my opinion.
So if you enjoy a little whiskey or bourbon, today is a day of celebration.
And if you enjoy great venison, I highly recommend visiting the Food for Hunters site for a trove of outstanding recipes. Rick Wheatley and Jen Nguyen create and explain amazing recipes like Ca Kho To, which is Vietnamese Catfish braised in a clay pot, and their Deer, Mushroom and Barley soup to knock the chill off some of these spring nights, or others for small game, waterfowl, upland birds and even some unique ones. Like what? How about Thai Style Turtle and Potato Curry? Sounds fabulous. Turtle is delicious and curry, well, it can provide outstanding flavor or give you a kick in the pants if the dish is uber-curried.
There are a ton of great recipes on the Food for Hunters site, though, so take a look. And we’ll have more soon about a great project between Rick and Jen and F+W Media, our parent company, on their super new wild game cookbook coming out later this summer. “Hunting for Food” will be about 175 pages covering 13 species, with great cooking preparation photos and super recipes. You can pre-order Hunting for Food now.
Rick and Jen had a quick Facebook post the other day that I thought was pretty good: “Pan seared venison on top of baby kale, spinach and chard salad with French vinaigrette dressing, avocado, tomato, caramelized onion and Parmesan.”
That’s about as easy as can be to make and is pretty tasty. I love a good salad and eat them regularly in spring and summer when the veggies are fresh, but I also don’t mind opening a bag of spring greens. Either is fine. Here’s how I would make this one:
Kale, chopped and with tough ribs removed
French vinaigrette dressing
Wash the kale, spinach and chard well, drain and/or pat dry. After removing the main ribs in the kale and chard, gently tear or chop with a knife into bite-size pieces. Nothing stinks more than getting a giant leaf in a bite of salad. Cut the avocado and remove the pit, then remove the flesh. (Watch to see how to do this easily.)
Caramelize your onions if you desire (Watch to see how.) Or you could use a sweet onion and give it a good dice so it wouldn’t be overpowering. If you want a bit more bite, go with a red onion or spring green onions when they’re available. Caramelized onions are pretty darn good, though.
Add olive oil to a skillet on medium-high heat and sear the venison loin to your desired doneness. Personally, I like mine medium-rare. You could sear the loin whole and then slice it, or slice into thin strips beforehand for a faster cooking time. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the venison after searing while it’s still warm.
Tomatoes can be pre-cut or you could use little cherry tomatoes, if they’re in season. Assemble the greens, onions, avocado, tomatoes and venison. Grate the Parmesean over the top and add the vinagrette dressing. (See how to easily make your own dressing.)
Get The Ulimate Deer Hunter’s Cookbook
Mouth-watering recipes have made 301 Venison Recipes a hunter’s classic. A fantastic selection of appetizers and main meals fill the pages of this lay-flat and easy-to-use cookbook. If you need to feed a hungry bunch at deer camp, or serve special guests in your home, look no further.
“This is the most distributed cookbook ever produced on venison,” says Dan Schmidt, Editor in Chief of Deer & Deer Hunting magazine. Now approaching its 25th anniversary, “301 Venison Recipes” highlights the best dishes made by the readers of Deer & Deer Hunting magazine. Every contribution is solid. You’ll absolutely wear this book out by trying all of the tasty recipes within.”
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