So, how’d that New Year’s Resolution go? If January is a time for making plans, February is for making amends. Sorry, better self — things just didn’t work out. Still, short-lived as your resolution may have been, it served some purpose: Consider those days of healthy, sober, noble living an investment in a debauched future. The pleasure of penance is the purposeful sinning that comes, inevitably, after. You deserve it. But a binge needn’t be a sloppy mess. Think craven, with class — mustard stains on a black-tie tux. How? Make sure the mustard, well, cuts it. That is to say, replace the sleeves of Oreos and pints of Chubby Hubby with gourmet munchies, indulgent but artisanal. Not corner store mystery meat but locavore jerky; not supermarket soda but bontanical-infused mixers. Tempted? Give in. Pandora’s box has arrived, and it’s delicious.
Bourbon Jerky // Righteous Felon // West Chester, PA
Every culture has snacks, but while these can run the globe-spanning gamut from bags of chips to bags of bugs (lookin’ at you, China), there is one common denominator: the cured and salted meat stick. Each country has its take, but only ours has bourbon — because bourbon, by law, can only ever be ours. And if that wasn’t locavore enough, the rest of this jerky, from the black angus beef to the wrapper it comes in, was processed and packaged within 50 miles of Righteous Felon H.Q. Cured meat, aged whisky — good things take time, but the beauty of jerky is, there’s no need to wait for the steaks to sizzle. Just open the bag.
California Chile Almonds // Ag Standard // Los Angeles, CA
An apple a day is for old wives and teacher’s pets. Healthy eating by the book might keep you out of the examination room, but it’ll kill you with boredom. Live fast, die young? Not exactly — we’re not throwing caution to the wind, just dousing it in hot sauce. Almonds, of course, are plenty healthy, and California almonds more wholesome than that waxed, irradiated, imported Red “Delicious.” Sure, our almonds come devilishly dusted in fiery pepper, but a little fun never killed anyone. Live fast, die old, and eat well.
Smoked Pecan & Vietnamese Cinnamon Honey // Best Friends Honey // Portland, OR
Honey seems the ultimate in sinful indulgence — the bees do all the work. Liquid gold is their treasure alone, and so each drop we eat is flavored with the guilty pleasure of theft. No wonder it’s so good. In this case, though, a bit of human effort makes a good thing even better, infusing it with savory smoke and spicy cinnamon, then whipping it to a smooth and creamy spread that’s perfect on toast, and even better as a tangy sweet alternative to barbecue sauce, drizzled on seared steak. Don’t worry — you won’t have to lift a finger, other than the one you use to scrape out every last drop from the jar.
Mustard Spice // Tin Mustard // Brooklyn, NY
Gorging our guts on fats and salts, we often need a wake-up call, even before the food coma hits — a repentant slap, a reminder that good things come with a cost. That’s why God invented heartburn. But that’s also why man invented mustard, that spicy, vinegary spark that brightens burgers and heightens tastebuds. Instead of that neon squirt or beige smear, this time try a jolt with some maturity. Like a slap from a manicured hand, this sexy sprinkling of custom-ground mustard powder is cutting but classy, spicy but deep. So better that burger, and dress up those chicken wings: toss them in a few tablespoons of spice, brush on olive oil, splash on lemon, drizzle with honey, and bake for 45 minutes, flipping once.
Cocoa Tamarind Mole // Entube // Los Angeles, CA
Mole takes forever, and when you really think about it, it should. On paper, the flavor formula makes no sense. Chilies plus chicken plus cumin plus… chocolate? The missing ingredient, of course, is time. After hours simmering together, that simple arithmetic becomes abstract calculus, and those incongruous ingredients turn transcendent. What we taste isn’t the sum of its parts, but a mix of tradition, time, and love. Got none to spare? Us neither. That’s why we love Entube, who simplify the classic Oaxacan sauce — this one with the beguiling tang of tamarind — into a portable, quick-draw spread. For an equally simple dipping sauce, brown a pound of butter and stir in a hefty splash of mezcal and dollop of mole, then serve with shrimp, corn, tortillas, all three, or just a wooden spoon and a bib.
Strawberry Rhubarb Shrub // Hudson Standard // Hudson, NY
This retox comes, we admit, with a bit of foodie idealism. Be bad, but do good — that is to say, have a drink, but drink local. Hudson Standard’s New-York-grown, seasonal botanicals turn cocktails into landscape paintings, with old-school mixers like this shrub, a Colonial American invention to preserve fruit and — bonus! — flavor rotgut liquor. We like it, of course, with better booze: try an ounce of good gin to two ounces of mix, add a splash of bubbles and top with lemon.
February 2019 Mantry | Retox Vol. 3 Mantry