La Fee Verte at Morton’s of Chicago
DALLAS – Morton’s of Chicago, The Steak House, hosted an Absinthe tasting Friday night in downtown Dallas. Quick note, La Fee Verte is one of those charming French phrases with a dual meaning, depending on how you emphasize the pronunciation. It means both The Green Fairy and I Can’t Feel My Face.
When I heard about it on the radio, I googled it and found a write up at Yelp. I read their little review, and posted this tidbit based on my own absinthe experience:
Absinthe, as they say, makes the tart grow fonder. At least in your mind. Never eaten at Morton’s but I have had absinthe. Purists will insist that the whole setting on fire thing is simply gauche. The rest of the ritual is pretty fun though. The oils in the liquor mix with the ice cold water and cause the drink to cloud up. In clear absinthe, the result looks like watery milk. Which may be why the preferred green is generally used. With the green, the result is a really cool almost luminescent green “louche”. But then, alas, you taste it. Those fond of aniset and other licorice flavored concoctions may like it a lot. I will say by the second one you really don’t care anymore what it tastes like. The claim for absinthe is that all the herbs used in the making combine with the alcohol to provide a lucid buzz. So, like you’re drunk, you know, but everything is so clear! Absinthe was outlawed when a man went to a bar after work, I think in France, got absolutely paralyzed on absinthe and then went home and killed his family. There was of course the attendant hysteria, but many feel it was capitalized on by the French winemakers as absinthe was cutting into their action due to being cheap. So, with all that kind of history, mystery, ritual and the excitement of a lucid buzz, how could you not want to go!
Indeed, how could we not go?!
The event was hosted by Pernod (say perno) the original absinthe maker. Absinthe was indeed outlawed in the early 1900s, supposedly due to the malicious nature of thujone, something you find in wormwood. Mmmm woorrmmmmwwooooood. Sounds delicious, eh? Thujone was given the Reefer Madness treatment and absinthe was banned in all but Spain, Portugal and Britain. This poster gives you an idea of what the Green Fairy did to unsuspecting men.
However, long before it gained this kind of reputation, it enjoyed a much more, shall we say sensuous(?) reputation. Several posters remain from the late 1800s and early 1900s that present a much more ah, accessible green fairy. Posters such as this one:
Coupled with the likes of Oscar Wilde and Toulouse Lautrec, absinthe garnered a reputation as the drink to drink. Among many things, it was thought to cause hallucinations, spur creativity, get you laid, etc. What’s not to love about absinthe, especially in that Bohemian age?
Soooo, I digress. The event at Morton’s was off to the side in a room with a couple of tables and some bar stools and the like. There was a center table with absinthe paraphernalia seductively laid out, including this art deco vintage absinthe fountain. Here, I have a picture of one very similar.
See, here’s the deal. Absinthe is 136 proof. Rubbing alcohol, for comparison’s sake, is 90 proof. Wild Turkey’s highest proof is 101 proof, except for their Rare Breed version which is 108.2 proof. And so, to prevent people’s heads from self-severing in a crazed attempt to escape green damnation, absinthe is necessarily cut with ice water.In a charming little ritual, a flat absinthe spoon is laid atop a glass with the green liquid already decanted. You put a sugar cube on the flat spoon, and then you dribble ice water over the cube until it dissolves in the glass. You admire the transcendent green luminescence and then sip gingerly until your mouth and lips go numb. Consequently, my review of Morton’s delicate comestibles is necessarily limited to their appearance; I’m sure they tasted great.
Seriously, the food stuffs were very good. There were Oysters Rockefeller, crab stuffed mushrooms, sliced tenderloin crostinis, and their Prime mini-cheeseburgers. I have to say, it all tasted really good to me, but I liked the mini-burgers the best. The Puppycat and I did not have the oysters. I’m not much of an oyster man, which some find funny as I very much like my sushi. But, while sushi does in fact look like raw fish, oysters look like a shell full of snot. Enough about me though.
Along with the appeteasers, they were also serving Absinthe Cocktails: Sazerac, Le Deuce, and Monkey Gland cocktails, to be exact. Monkey Gland – Monkey Gland? Yes. One wonders at the name. It is however, 2 parts Beefeater Gin, 3 parts Orange Juice, a teaspoon of Grenadine and 2 dashes Pernod Absinthe. You combine in a shaker and serve very cold. It is not good to let the monkey gland get hot.
The Puppycat allowed that it was “OK” mostly by comparison to the Absinthe, which she did not like. She also did not like the Le Deuce. It is concocted of 1 part Absolut Vodka, 2 dashes of Pernod Absinthe, 1/4 part Rasberry Puree and 1 part Brut Champagne. (I’m guessing all these called out brands are some how hooked together.) You shake and strain ingredients into the glass and top with Brut Champagne. It was a bit bubbly, and a bit, well, undrinkable. It looked all cool and purpley, but it’s brave good looks just couldn’t overcome the fact it was putrid.
Over in the corner, behind a blast wall, a man wearing kiln gloves and a welding mask was making Sazerac. This is (reportedly) 1 part Rye Whiskey, 2 dashes of bitters, a splash of Pernod Absinthe, 1/2 sugar cube, and a slice of lemon rind. In a shaker, muddle the sugar cube with the dashes of bitters. Add rye whiskey and some ice. Stir until chilled. Remove the ice and add a splash of Pernod Absinthe. Rinse well with the absinthe then strain the cocktail from the shaker into the frozen glass. Add lemon rind to garnish. When I got home, I pulled my Machinery’s Handbook, 5th edition, off the shelf. I looked in the index for Sazerac and finally found it under the heading “Substitutions.”
“In the case of stump removal in a field, if one does not have nitroglycerin to hand, an effective substitute is Sazerac…”
This caused me to do an exhaustive 45 second search of the Entire World Wide Web on the subject of “consumable explosives.” I learned the vaunted Web is entirely devoid of useful information regarding this topic.
First time visitors to the Global Exclaimer no doubt need to understand our rating system for dining experiences. Our ratings are simple and usable and have a high non-snobbery attribute –
- We’ll be back
- It was food
- Don’t bother
Our Rating: We’ll be back. Possibly in May for their Spanish Wine Tasting.