Bar Food // March 2016 Mantry

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There’s food and drink, and then there’s drink and food. One’s fine dining, where booze comes second — the dinner-conversation lubricant, the palate cleanser. The other’s decidedly not. Bar bites are as old as bars themselves, from simple salty snacks to keep patrons parched and drinking, to multi-plate tapas feasts. But across centuries and cultures, pub grub emphasizes the grub: blue-collar, no frills. We don’t mean Red Vines tubs and expired bags of Chex Mix (though Bacchus forgive us, we’ve indulged) — we mean refreshingly simple, gently hedonistic munchies. Snacks like those in this month’s crate, a bar-side pantry of treats good enough to make you forget your dinner reservations altogether, and focus on the task at hand: drinking.

Old Fashioned Cocktail Mixer // Proof // Decatur, GA
The mixologists at the Decatur, Georgia cocktail lounge Pinewood whip up a mean Old Fashioned, if you’re willing to wait. Drinks made the right way — the old way — take time. And when you’re out on the town, the bar-side song and dance is part of the fun. But back at home, leave the mixing to the masters and get straight to drinking with this premade blend of bitters, sugar, and oleosaccharum — a 19th-century citrus-infused cocktail syrup. Using about a half ounce for each two-finger pour of bourbon, one bottle is good for 30 drinks or so.

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100% Organic White Truffle Oil // Regalis // Brooklyn, NY
Almost every Michelin-starred New York restaurant worth its chef’s whites has truffles somewhere, somehow, on its menu — and almost every one buys them from Regalis. Want to savor those luscious Perigords with a three-figure Pinot? Get a reservation. We like our fanciest fungi lowest-brow: that is, fried. Cut up a few pounds of russet potatoes, drizzle with this white-truffle-infused cold-pressed Californian oil, and bake at 400 for an hour, flipping halfway through. Top with parmesan, serve without pretension.

Hatch Cheese Nibbles // Wackym’s Kitchen // Dallas, TX
Wackym’s Kitchen started as a home-oven operation, slinging a half dozen varieties of cookies at Dallas-area farmers markets; it’s now an empire of Texan proportions with flavors as, er, wacky (it’s his real name) as the owner’s trademark hats. Some, like chocolate snicker doodle, might be best when the drinking’s done and the sweet tooth kicks in, but before happy hour swings toward desert time, these biscuits hit the spot, with a savory, tangy mix of sharp cheddar, blue cheese, and New Mexico’s infamous Hatch chiles.

Beer Caramel Pretzel Nuggets // Roni-Sue’s // New York, NY
Another classic bar side bite, long gone stale: stripped of their brawny Bavarian glory, most bar pretzels are banished to dusty snack bowls, pawed through by dozens of drunken hands. Good riddance. Leave those for the unenlightened and get hip to Roni-Sue’s redux, a collaboration with her neighbors at the Brooklyn Brewery: sweet, salty, crunchy pretzel nibbles infused with, what else? Beer.

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Sriracha Nuts // Sugar Plum // Forty Fort , PA
The humble peanut gets upstaged by chicer seeds like walnuts and filberts and, unshelled and unadorned, it’s not hard to see why. But doll ’em up a bit — and we don’t mean with a top hat and cane, Planter’s man — and the nut will draw a crowd. Cooked in Sriracha and vanilla, these are sweet enough to satisfy, spicy enough to keep you sipping: a communal snack bowl you’ll horde yourself.

BBQ Spare Rib Jerky // Lawless Jerky // Santa Monica, CA
If your local watering hole is the frontier type, from its sun-burnt swinging doors to its boot-buffed brass rail, drinks mean whisky, and bar snacks mean a nameless tub of mystery meats. Let’s not get too stylish with our mustaches and plaid, but those munchies could use some cleaning up. Tip your ten-gallon to these, cooked in the classic Sichuan rib sauce of tangy ketchup and salty soy, spiced with ginger, cinnamon, and cloves, and balanced with a drizzle of honey. Foodie-fied, but far from hifalutin.

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March 2016 Mantry | Bar Food

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