A Tale of Two Vodkas: The Taste-Off

Tuesday Revews-Day

When it come to clear spirits, vodka is not my go-to. I enjoy a drink’s flavor, after all, and the hallmark of a good vodka is more-or-less the absence of flavor. (Not that good vodka tastes like nothing, it’s just subtle notes that you really have to taste for–most days I just don’t want to have to work that hard!) But as much as I like gin, a good vodka comes in handy when gin’s herbaceousness would be out of sync with the rest of a drink. Which is why I agreed to participate in tasting challenge Purity Vodka posed to self-proclaimed “world’s best tasting vodka,” Grey Goose.

Premium vodkas are distilled to within an inch of their cogeners; Purity Vodka is distilled 34 times (compared to a single column-distillation of Grey Goose). 34 sounds like excess–can you really taste the difference? Could I?

There was also a flash drive with some more information and the whole thing was tied up in a purple bow. I thought it was a wedding present, at first, it was so nicely presented. And we know I'm a sucker for good presentation.

There was also a flash drive with some more information and the whole thing was tied up in a purple bow. I thought it was a wedding present, at first, it was so nicely presented. And we know I’m a sucker for good presentation.

Purity sent me this really spiffy tasting kit with faux calla lilies and lined with a purple cloth, with two petite tasting glasses and an airline bottle of each Purity and Grey Goose vodkas. The Swedish-made Purity is obviously confident in their quality to send not only their own samples but that of the competitor as well. And while many people prefer their vodka ice-cold, Purity encourages this tasting be done at room temperature, so that’s what I did.

I started with the Grey Goose, and when you’re tasting spirits it’s important not to judge based on that first sip as the alcohol is interacting with whatever you last tasted. So wait until that second sip to make any decisions about whether you like it or not. What I noticed about the Grey Goose was that it had some definite hard edges, a slight burning at the back of my mouth, and a thin, angular mouth-feel.

Prepare to be tasted!

Prepare to be tasted!

The Purity, on the other hand, really impressed me with how smooth and round it feels in the mouth and while there’s a bit of tingle under my tongue, there’s no burn at the back of my mouth. I’m still not sold enough on either of them to switch my mixed-drink preferences to vodka, neat, but I can see the Purity vodka making for a better base spirit in many cocktails where you the flavors of the drink to flow easily around.

Granted, Grey Goose might still make for a bracing martini, but I’d use Purity over GG to make my layered cocktails in a heartbeat.

If it wasn’t obvious, I was sent the sample of Purity Vodka for the purpose of review. A while ago (the original event was last summer)–it got lost in the wedding shuffle, so my apologies for that. Nonetheless, all opinions expressed are my own as well as any factual errors there might be. We here at Scraps of Life encourage everyone to drink responsibly and never drink and drive.

Our Tasty Brunch Tasting!

Third Time Wife, Wedding Planning

Going into this wedding planning adventure, we knew that food was pretty high up there on the priorities list. Perhaps even the most important. So it might surprise you to know that we had never tried our venues food before our tasting last night.

And yes, I was a smidgen apprehensive over that point.

But Honey Lake Plantation fit everything else we needed so we took a leap of faith and signed the contract, hoping that our faith would be rewarded.

As of last night, I say we’re golden.

When we arrived we were shown to our table in the Gathering Hall’s main room with two places set and a printed menu in a clear stand so we could follow along. Of course, since we were so familiar with the menu already (having created it ourselves), we didn’t really need it but it’s nice to know they do that for their tastings.

Our menu for the evening (all photos personal)

Our menu for the evening (all photos personal)

During the tasting we would also be having our second planning meeting, so our DoC was present to chat with between courses (which gave us the opportunity to update her on things like the napkin change and verify some details we’d previously left vague). As soon as Chef Bill came out, though, it was his show.

the wonderfully accommodating Chef Bill

the wonderfully accommodating Chef Bill

Our first course was the soup and I was so glad to see it was a small portion. I was a little nervous we’d be serving ridonculous portion sizes and definitely didn’t want that, and a soup bowl or plate would have just been too much of a good thing.

Just the perfect amount of rich, creamy soup to start off brunch!

Just the perfect amount of rich, creamy soup to start off brunch!

The first try of the soup—a blend of butternut squash and sweet potatoes with coconut milk, cinnamon, sea salt, and pepper—was nice and velvety smooth, but missing something. We talked it over, I suggested adding cumin, and Chef Bill went and doctored up another two bowls for us with cumin, coriander, and Chinese 5-spice powder. It was perfect, and it turns out it was his preferred method of preparing that soup, he just didn’t know how comfortable we were with spices. To which I say: flavors, we wants them!

This quiche was possibly the best I've tasted. The smoked Gouda really makes a difference!

This quiche was possibly the best I’ve tasted. The smoked Gouda really makes a difference!

Moving on to the second course, the crust-less quiche featured both ham and apple wood-smoked bacon and a hearty amount of smoked Gouda. It, too, was very smooth and rich, so the accompanying salad of mixed greens with fruit and berry vinaigrette was the perfect foil to all the richness. The salad was also topped with some toasted sunflower seeds, something I’d suggested instead of nuts just to avoid other people’s potential allergies while still adding another layer of texture to the meal.

Oh, and did I mention that Honey Lake has their own chickens? These are super-fresh eggs Chef Bill gets to work with!

Country-fried steak, Tomato and Squash Terrine, and Biscuits with Gravy (it's the eggs in the gf biscuits that make them so golden yellow)

Country-fried steak, Tomato and Squash Terrine, and Biscuits with Gravy (it’s the eggs in the gf biscuits that make them so golden yellow)

Finally it was time for the third course—Chef Bill’s challenge: wheat free, lactose-free, onion & garlic free country-fried steak, biscuits and gravy. I think he met the challenge well! The steak was dredged in a mixture of arrowroot and rice flour, then pan-fried in bacon fat. No, it doesn’t have the characteristic coating we’re used to, but that actually worked in it’s favor since I think (I didn’t ask at the time) he used something other than the traditional cube steak, so the quality of the meat was highlighted instead of masked by breading.

For our tasting we both had the gluten-free biscuits (made from GF Bisquick per the package recipe—might sound chintzy, but it’s the best option I’ve found so far, especially when you only need to make a couple at a time) but at the wedding the guests will have traditional buttermilk biscuits and only I’ll have the gf ones. The gravy was Andouille-sausage gravy made with a safe-for-RT-tummies stock instead of cream (velouté vs. béchamel, for the foodies of the Hive), though again, guests will have the regular. According to both Mr. Road Trip and Chef Bill, they actually taste about the same; it’s just that one looks a little different.

Since those dishes alone would have made for a very beige plate, Chef Bill suggested and I accepted a terrine of tomatoes and squash topped with a bit of cheese. You also see bacon on top—I mentioned that our goal was to have bacon as many places as possible and he definitely took that to heart!

In fact, the only item we didn’t get a chance to try—the most popular if the comments on the last post are anything to go by—was the bacon-wrapped breadstick. We’re still working on that one but I did bring him a pizza dough recipe I thought might work so we’ll see if he’s able to experiment. Most guests will receive a conventional breadstick wrapped in bacon (I’m envisioning barber pole-style, but we’ll have to wait and see) and I’ve opted to skip that if he cannot find something that meets his standards and is safe for me, too.

Because while he wants to do the best he can to please me and my palate, he also wants to make sure our guests walk away with a good impression of Honey Lake, and it does take some time to adjust to certain food substitutions, especially the non-wheat variety. And as a fellow chef I can totally get behind that.

We Road Trips trundled on home with full bellies and quite a lot to look forward to for our reception.

What was your menu tasting experience like?