Celebrations: May brings Bowties and Black Beans
By Grayson Knight
Everyone is familiar with the Cinco de Mayo holiday in the U.S. We as Americans celebrate this holiday on a full fledged, salsa and beer loaded scale. Cinco De Mayo is technically not Mexico’s independence day, however it is a celebration of freedom and Mexican heritage in all of North America. This in turn usually brings out glorious, succulent Mexican fare, tequila, and some Corona to finish it off.
My mother is full-blooded Hispanic/Mexican, but growing up in the south after migrating from California, we didn’t really go all out with this holiday. However, it is a sight to observe growing up how most Caucasians celebrate Cinco de Mayo. Most American households head up to their local Mexican chain restaurant, have a few tacos, a couple margaritas, then call it a holiday. I however on the other hand, have a few helpful tips to ensuring your holiday, however you celebrate it, goes swimmingly.
On this wonderful foodie holiday, I usually like to find some good tamales and or fresh tacos. I grew up eating fresh tamales from my Mexican heritage and when I am able to be treated to my Grandfather’s, its bliss. What I look for in a good taco on the other hand is a whole other story. The taco has to have some kind of protein. I tend to gravitate towards pork or chicken tacos. I really think you get the most flavor out of how the meat has been seasoned or cured. Next, it must have some freshly sliced radishes, cilantro, diced onions, fresh cabbage, and MUST have a touch of heat somehow whether it be chilies, or some salsa. Black beans or Pinto beans and some Spanish rice are a nice pair with both Tamales and Tacos.
Classic Margarita’s according to the cocktail predecessors, have a twist in them that is probably the factor that turned me on to drinking tequila. The classic margarita recipe contains the use of one egg white into the mix. This is probably my favorite way to drink margaritas. It forms the smoothest, whitest, frothiest foam on the top that only modern sour mixes wish they could accomplish. Kiss your Rose’s lime from your bar goodbye. Also, before you read this recipe, note that if you have an allergy or do not care for a delicious egg white, you can simply omit this from your beverage.
The Margarita –
2 oz. Tequila of choice (preferably a reposado in age)
½ oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice (pulp is optional)
½ oz. fresh squeezed lime juice
¾ oz. of simple syrup (sugar and water equal parts dissolved, probably prep beforehand)
1 egg white (see below how to retrieve the white)
Some good chunky cubed ice to shake with
Take a bar shaker tin of some sort, have a smaller mixing tin or pint glass to be able to shake the ingredients. Add all ingredients into shaker tin EXCEPT ice. Lock the tin with your pint glass or smaller mixing tin and shake as hard and vigorously as you can! This is called a “mime” shake. This breaks down the egg white with the alcohol, citrus, and sugar and makes that beautiful frothiness. After you have mime shaken your ingredients, toss a few chunky cubes in your mix. Shake hard again. After you have shaken the second time, grab yourself a glass of your choice and strain just like it is, or over some more ice cubes. Garnish with any citrus of your choice. Cheers.
Favorite Mexican beers for the holiday include:
Sol, Tecate, Negro Modelo, and Modelo Especial. Toss in a lime wedge, always.
It just so happens that Cinco de Mayo corresponds with the Kentucky Derby, in the same weekend. In the south, this is the time to grab those beautiful sun hats and summer pastel dresses for ladies, and for the gentlemen, pull out that seersucker suit and your bowtie. This is an audaciously right time to pull off any southern fashion stint. I don’t think I would have it any other way because that is what tradition is all about.
Most equestrian thrill seekers these days have gotten younger. They seek more of the thrill of the event itself it seems like. This usually involves being outside on a beautiful spring day after it has rained and usually pulling up your pant legs a bit to avoid getting to muddy from being at the race. The ladies usually end up losing their heels in the first hour! More importantly, this is a wonderful time to enjoy your favorite Derby drink. For most, it is usually a Mint Julep, which has become the staple of beverage for the Derby for generations. Most ladies usually end up sipping on an ice, cold glass of their favorite white wine they have brought with them. There are almost too many ways to divulge for Mint Julep recipes but most these days are pretty accurate to the Mint Juleps of old.
Just make sure you have the essentials: Crushed ice, Bourbon (not whiskey, not rye, not moonshine), Fresh Mint, and some homemade simple syrup. I like to use a couple of dashes of the classic Angostura Bitters for some bite in mine.
Since I am a male, I am going to specifically touch on the men’s attire. I work for a high-end retail designer named Billy Reid, who just so happens to get pretty busy around this time of year. Granted, we don’t always have seersucker suits, but we usually have the components to get you outfitted and looking sharp and tasteful. I would have to say my ideal outfit would be a khaki or tan, cotton or canvas suit as a base. From there I would pick a nicely patterned pastel colored shirt. I tend to gravitate towards baby blue or lavender. Being that it is the Derby, A bowtie is in order for the neck wear. I really like to pick neck wear that makes more of a statement that anything else I am wearing because too many “loud” pieces in an outfit can be gaudy and overwhelming. I would choose a contrasting pastel colored bowtie for the outfit. A baby blue or lavender shirt offset with a dark navy linen bowtie is a nice touch. If it suits your fancy, you can add a vintage handkerchief or “pocket square” of any coordinating color to go with your outfit as the finishing touch. Some gentlemen choose to wear a hat and sometimes that is the wisest decision! For the shoes (if it is not too muddy) I would wear a nice pair of saddle oxfords in a lighter color, or go the other way and wear some blue suede shoes or loafers. No sandals and no boots! It’s the Derby!
Let us all also remember that tradition is what holds our culture together, and in the south, this is a big part of it. Everyone, in some way or another, will always want to uphold or be apart of a tradition that flows from his or her roots, or the roots of the new home in the south. Let’s all celebrate the southern traditions!
Grayson Knight lives in Nashville and is culturally driven in food and beverage and pioneered some of the most popular bars and restaurants there. Two years ago he re-entered the retail and fashion world with Billy Reid at his store in Green Hills, a small borough of Nashville. Billy Reid’s lifestyle branding is something that has drawn Grayson into better understanding the relationship between food, culture, and fashion. We are thrilled to have Grayson contributing to The Southern C.
PHOTO CREDIT: Billy Reid