As part of GastroFest, GastroJax will be hosting a cocktail contest inside the Sweet Pete’s building (map), starting at 7pm Saturday. The competitors are: The Candy Apple Café, Bistro AIX, Grape & Grain Exchange, bb’s and Sidecar. There will be both a juried and people’s choice winner. Tickets are $35 and available on Eventbrite.
The Candy Apple Café recently invited us to preview their entry to the upcoming competition. The rules of the contest are to create a drink using at least one ounce of Palm Ridge Whiskey, a whiskey made from a micro-distillery in nearby Umatilla, Florida. Our bartender was Marlon Hall, the inventor of the Members Only cocktail, and Bar Manager at the Candy Apple Café. The name of the cocktail comes from the location of the Candy Apple Café, which is housed in what was once the Old Seminole Club, a members only establishment. The Old Seminole Club’s house cocktail had been a milk punch, and Marlon wanted his cocktail to pay homage to the past while also showcasing the flavor of the Palm Ridge Whiskey. To achieve those ends the Members Only begins with a cream base that has been infused with vanilla bean and ginger. To these are added local honey, ice and whiskey, before being shaken into a wonderfully rich and smooth cocktail. On its own the whiskey is strong, but the cream mellows the taste and the vanilla-ginger-honey combination provides a slightly sweet and complementary flavor to the whiskey-cream base.
The version of the Members Only we tried will be served to the GastroFest public on Saturday and is available now at the Candy Apple Café. During the competition Marlon will be adding a few more embellishments and flourishes to really impress the judges (we heard something about smoke and real honey comb).
To pair with the cocktail, the Candy Apple Café has created a time limited meatloaf entrée. The meatloaf is made with short rib and topped with tomato jam. The accompaniments are brown butter whipped potatoes and baby vegetables, all topped with a port reduction. The short rib gave the meatloaf a steak-like texture and rich flavor, which was well complemented by the port reduction. The jam was sweet with a hint of spice. The potatoes were whipped, which gave them a light texture, but they were whipped with brown butter which brought a rich flavor and made them a table favorite. Our vegetables were cooked perfectly too - not too hard and definitely not mushy. This is a comfort-food dish with an elegant preparation that elevates it beyond the everyday.
For those who prefer their meatloaf in a sandwich, the Candy Apple Café also has a slider version, featuring their short rib meatloaf and tomato jam inside a buttermilk biscuit.