housekeeping bits, including a ziplist partnership

Housekeeping Bit Number One:

I have a new partner around here, and his name is ZipList. Or is ZipList a her? Regardless, we’re getting along quite well.

You may have seen the subtle change in the site. If you looked closely, or if you printed a recipe recently, you may have noticed that there is a new little icon on the recipe part of my posts.

happy tears, and a slow-cooker summer berry grunt

The blueberry farm was a new one to me, not the one we visited last year. I was pleased that this new one was so close to our home, just about 10 minutes away. My husband was pleased that the berries were going to be free.

On Facebook the day before, a friend posted a photo of her blueberry haul – gallons of the dark blue berries overflowing bags and buckets on her kitchen table – and I couldn’t resist leaving a comment asking where she scored this amazing harvest. She wrote back with an address, and less than 24 hours later, we were driving down a two-lane country road flanked by pastures and small family farms.

Because it was Mother’s Day morning, I assumed we would have the field to ourselves, but I was wrong. The dirt road outlining and, in some parts, cutting through the fields were meant for commercial trucks and picking crews. Today, they were lined with minivans and family cars, and people of all ages – including several multi-generational families – were moving slowly along the rows between blueberry bushes, hunting the for the biggest and juiciest berries.

remembering my first – margarita, that is

Ashley’s Pub, a British-sounding bar complete with dark wood paneling and old-English decor, was located in a strip mall next to a tax preparation business and a military recruitment office. Despite the name and appearance, Ashley’s served Mexican food to a bustling college crowd. It opened in 1980, but I was in the third grade then, so that bit of news didn’t make it into my awareness. Besides, the news of a restaurant opening in The Big City of Gainesville would have paled in comparison to furnishing my Barbie house or riding bikes with my friend, Carrie.

By the time I made it to college at the University of Florida in the early 1990s, Ashley’s was firmly established as the place to go for a burrito, a basket of chips with salsa, and house margaritas. I’m certain I had my first margarita there, probably while squeezed in a booth with my boyfriend (who I happen to be married to now) and his roommates, pretending to be interested in whatever college football game was on the sports channel on the television suspended above the bar.

I recall the margaritas at Ashley’s as being quite good, and almost too easy to drink, with just the right balance of sweetness to tartness. But mostly, the margaritas were cheap and there were plenty of them. The bar favorite was the 46-ounce Jumbo House Margarita. We tended to share the 46 ounces, ladling the chartreuse elixir into our individual salt-rimmed margarita glasses, taking care not to spill a drop. The sneakiest of the group always made sure to scoop up just the liquid, leaving the ice behind for the rest of us.

After nearly 30 years of serving tacos and tequila to generations of college students and faculty in our college town, Ashley’s closed in 2009. We were sad to see the institution go. Who would serve us jumbo margaritas now?

I’ve had a lot of margaritas since then, lots of amazing ones, like the one above from La Condesa in Austin. I’ve had entirely too many bad ones, mostly characterized by being overly sweet or without the right proportion of tequila. Those are the drinks that I kick myself for consuming afterwards. I hate wasting calories on a crappy drink.

Until recently, I’d never made  a margarita that made my own cut. I’ve searched for an on-the-rocks margarita that is easy to make, incorporates good ingredients, and tastes balanced and refreshing. I blame my husband’s affection for Margarita Mix for our own failures in producing a quality cocktail. That stuff should be banned.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I found this recipe. This, my friends, was my last experimentation with margarita-making. I’ve finally found my favorite margarita.

Yield: 1 drink.

Agave Margarita with Hibiscus-Lime Syrup

I tweaked Bon Appétit's version of their agave margarita by adding hibiscus-lime syrup (from Lemon Bird Jams). If you can't find any hibiscus-lime syrup, just omit it entirely. The margarita is equally delicious without it.

Ingredients:

Kosher salt
2 lime wedges
1/4 cup tequila
2 tablespoons agave syrup
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon hibiscus-lime syrup

Directions:

Pour some kosher salt onto a small plate. Rub 1 lime wedge around the rim of a glass. Dip glass into salt, and fill glass with ice.

In an ice-filled shaker, combine tequila, agave syrup, lime juice, and hibiscus-lime syrup. Shake well and strain into the prepared glass. Garnish with the second lime wedge.

Minimally tweaked from Bon Appétit, May 2012.