Join Houston Food Finder at Brasserie du Parc For An Elegant Absinthe Dinner

On Tuesday June 12th at 6:30 p.m., join Houston Food Finder and Brasserie du Parc at 1440 Lamar for The Green Muse dinner, a tribute to absinthe. Brasserie du Parc’s beverage director Kimberly Paul has chosen five distinct absinthes to pair with executive chef and co-owner Philippe Verpiand‘s exquisite dinner menu. Along the way, Paul will be discussing the many famous artists, writers and other forward-thinkers who found absinthe to be an inspiration. We’ll delve into the mysteries together and separate fact from fiction as we enjoy the journey of absinthe in the best way possible: through food and drink.

Absinthe is a spirit steeped in mystique. Between 1850 and 1900, pretty much all the cool kids drank it but, for a pretty poor rationale, absinthe was banned in the United States and most of Europe starting in the early 1900s. That is, it was until fairly recently. Now that science has prevailed, absinthe is finally shaking off its bad-boy reputation. It’s now respected for its complex, herbal flavors as well as the structure that even just a scant amount lends to many cocktails.

The terrace at Brasserie du Parc. Photo courtesy of Brasserie du Parc

First, here’s some information on the spirit of honor. Absinthe is the French spirit that causes hallucinations, right? Wrong! Absinthe originated in Switzerland in the 18th century—though it achieved great popularity in France in the mid 19th century. Absinthe is an anise-flavored spirit. Wormwood gives a slight bitterness and fennel provides the strong licorice flavor.

Initially, absinthe was used as a health elixir due to its many botanicals and herbs. Absinthe is highly alcoholic, generally ranging between 90 to 140 proof. This high percentage of alcohol plus trace amounts of thujone (the psychoactive element inside of wormwood) is the reason that absinthe was banned in the United States as a dangerous substance. (It turned out that the problems blamed on absinthe had much more to do with excessive amounts of alcohol consumption.)

Guests will begin the evening by sipping on Lucid—the first absinthe to hit the United States shelves after the 95-year ban was lifted — as Kimberly Paul leads a short talk on the spirit and its role in inspiring creative minds. Coming in at 124 proof, it’s definitely strong enough to get our creative juices flowing. Lucid is a French Verte (green) absinthe and is known for being a bit sweeter than other Verte absinthes.

Traditional preparations of absinthe waiting for the water drip. Photo by Ari X via Wikimedia Commons

The first course is a goat cheese and red beet panna cotta paired with La Clandestine, a Swiss absinthe. La Clandestine is a Blanche (white) absinthe and is generally regarded as the Blanche against which all other Blanches are measured against. At 106 proof, La Clandestine will go down smoothly and will show the strong licorice note that absinthe is known for. La Clandestine will be featured in a cocktail inspired by Oscar Wilde‘s Pen, Pencil, and Poison.

Chef Verpiand will then bring out his Dorade du Golfe a la plancha, or Gulf Red Snapper cooked on a Spanish griddle with a bouillabaisse sauce and shaved fennel. Since there is fennel in both the bouillabaisse and shaved on top of the snapper, this course will be paired with Kubler, a Swiss Blanche absinthe that is also 106 proof. The anise note should be predominant and will work well with the fennel in the dish. Kubler will be featured in a cocktail inspired by Vincent Van Gogh‘s Trees and Undergrowth.

Diners are in for a very special treat with Chef Verpiand’s Magret de Canard, or roasted duck breast with honey absinthe glaze. Paul is bringing out Jade Nouvelle-Orleans, a 136 proof French Verte to pair with the duck. With a rating of 4.8 out of 5, this is the big gun both in terms of quality and alcohol content. If you’re not seeing La Fée Verte (The Green Fairy) yet, this just might set her loose. Jade Nouvelle-Orleans will be featured in a cocktail inspired by Edouard Manet‘s In the Conservatory.

For dessert, guests will be treated to Ile Flottante a L’Absinthe Papillon; a custard with soft meringue and absinthe caramel sauce. Butterfly is a 130 proof Swiss Verte that is dark in color and strong citrus notes should complement the custard very well. Butterfly will be featured in a cocktail inspired by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec‘s At the Moulin Rouge, The Dance.

Considering that this a four-course meal prepared by a French master chef with cocktail and absinthe pairings, tickets to The Green Muse are a steal. The cost is $85 plus the nominal Eventbrite fee. You’ll also get a dose of education about one of the great, legendary spirits of the world.

Josh Armendariz is Houston Food Finder’s lead freelance beer and cocktail writer. He can often be found on a stool at your favorite bar, sipping a hoppy craft beer and talking about the Astros with anyone who’ll lend an ear. Follow him on Instagram at @drinkwithjosh.

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