Get Away With Fran

October 19, 2009

Vodka with taste, from Slovakia

Filed under: International,Travel Advice,U.S. — admin @ 9:54 am

Combine really good vodka, Double Cross, and the culinary expertise of Boston top chef Michael Schlow at Via Matta, at a vodka tasting, and of course you have a winning combination. And for those who say vodka has no taste I say blahhh. If there is not taste (which I would argue there is) vodka certainly presents itself in a sensory way, and in Schlow’s hands even a sensual way as well.

First to the vodka. If you haven’t yet heard of Double Cross you will, if for no other reason than it comes in an incredibly cool narrow rectangular bottle and that it hails from the unusual vodka destination of Slovakia (the double silver cross on the bottle is reflective of the Slovakian flag and there are sayings in Slovakian on the label). In fact, Double Cross is the only Slovakian vodka distributed in the U.S.

And the vodka does not even hail from any place in Slovakia you’re ever heard of. It comes from a 13th century village in the mountains near the Polish border and not from Bratislava, and not from more cosmopolitan Bratislava (Slovakia’s up and coming capital city). The vodka uses locally-grown winter wheat and mountain spring water drawn from aquifers located 200-feet below ground level.

How a Slovakian vodka landed in fine restaurants, bars and liquor stores in Boston involves an undergrad degree in biotechnology from Johns Hopkins and a medical degree from Dartmouth, both belonging to Malcolm Lloyd, who in addition to all that studying was looking for entrepreneurial diversion and set off to travel much of Eastern Europe in search of the perfect vodka.

Double Cross was just launched in Boston last month (after successful launches in New York and New Jersey.

And this slight diversion: According to Lloyd, Massachusetts is among the top 10 vodka markets in the U.S. Who knew?

Anyway, back to the tasting. At Via Matta I first sampled Double Cross in a martini, straight up, because that’s the way I like it and that to me is the way to test a good vodka. Double Cross, with a hint of lemon and pepper and a soft, almost chocolatey finish, made a good martini.

And then there was the shot, a requirement of any meal involving Eastern Europe. And then Schlow presented our small invited (and very lucky) group of journalists, with his vodka concoctions with food pairings.

The Tuna Crudo with cucumber and lemon sauce was accompanied by a Basil Lime Gimlet (lip smacking both). The Pumpkin ravioli burro salvia con amaretti paired well with a DBNlini with prosecco, vin santo and sage (the delicious pasta being my favorite course of the evening). And then a Blood Orange Martini with Fennel foam stole the show from the Slow roasted Arctic Char with roasted fennel, haricot vert and blood orange. The fish was good, the dirnk amazing, and Schlow said it will be featured on future menus.

For dessert, we had sweet treats – mascaporeas, nutella torte and coffee granita, accompanied by Shaved Iced Coffee with Double Cross and fresh whipped cream (all very decadent).

Try your own creations by picking up a bottle, retail price $44.99 to $49.99. And this little tidbit: The “wild and crazy guys” of SNL fame came from Slovakia (Bratislava in particular). Something to entertain your friends with.

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