Peanuts for Milk
As you know, from time to time I get invited to attend a cool product launch or foodievent, given my status as a professional food & drink consumer....but if it makes you feel any better, it means I end up hungover for my Wednesday morning therapy from time to time.
Well, while many folks were debating the finer points as to which dough-based products are better to fill your fat faces with on this particular Tuesday, I was indulging in a very nutty affair. In one of my many Facebook groups, I saw a post about an event for Peanut Milk--or Milked Peanuts rather. I suppose it's fair to change the terminology slightly, given the lack of nipples on a peanut--those little peaks on the top are not nipples, kids! Naturally, I was intrigued. I mean, I'm always intrigued when someone wants to throw free food and drinks at me, but given the powerful flavor of the peanut, as well as the severity of many peanut allergies, I wondered if there were a good reason we'd not heard of peanut milk before. I was even more curious to know how they would integrate this product into drinkable cocktails.
The event was in a space I'd never been to before, which is somehow a part of the Hyatt Union Square, but also an independent space, operated by GrowNYC. It's a nice little layout with some cool indoor herb gardening happening. But I was there for the creamed nuts!
Obviously, I started at the cocktail table after washing my hands--no flu for me, thank you! The menu had three options of milked-peanut-infused adult beverages: The Nutty Muddy, The Frothy Peanut, and Nut-Tea-Punch. Clever, right? They were created by the bartender and her manager from Seamstress. I started with The Nutty Muddy because of the coffee element and it seemed like the most approachable from its description. And it wound up being my favorite. I thought it was the right balance of sweet and bitter, but I don't think I would have more than one--especially as I don't really drink much vodka these days.
With a cocktail in my hand, I turned to the kitchen display just opposite the bar for some milked-peanut-grub. Chef Chris Cheung was cooking up some amazingly fragrant food that I was excited to dig into. The savory dish was a congee made with the milked peanuts and served with a pork meatball. I would say that this was the highlight of the night for me. That and chatting with my fellow foodies. Speaking to the chef, the dish made a lot of sense as there are plenty of peanuts used in Chinese cuisine. In addition to going back for another bowl of congee later, I am now ready for a trip out to Park Slope to check out East Wind Snack Shop, you know, when I renew my passport. The sweet dish they were serving was a "snowball" with toasted peanuts and the chocolate milk. Much like a mochi, this dessert had a very chewy texture which is not always appealing to the Westerners, like myself. And that remained true here. Sometimes, I think it works if there's a good strong flavor or a contrasting texture, but I didn't find that to be the case.
While I probably should have started with the pure product itself, I am a stubborn lush with a belly to fill. But, my next stop was the nut milk table--before I got sloshed on plant-based beverages (I've given up animal-based beverages for lent). Kim, the Marketing Director for Elmhurst Milked LLC, poured some of the original Milked Peanuts for me to try first. As she explained all of the health benefits and facts associated with this brand new product--lots of protein, sustainable packaging, gluten-free, etc. I took my first sip and I believe the first words I uttered were "Wow, that is peanutty" to which Kim shook her head in agreement. I suppose that's what you should expect from a product made of peanuts. She assured me it works well in cold brew, so I look forward to trying that. I also think it's gonna be fun to cook and bake with. She also told me the kind of peanuts that are used, but I don't really know my nuts like that, so I just smiled and nodded along--looking at the literature, they're from Georgia if that means anything to you. Then she poured the chocolate flavor, which is lower in fat than the original--but of course, higher in sugar and carbs. This seems a pretty good substitute for a chocolate milk, but I would like to try a full-fat version. Maybe cuz it was Fat Tuesday.
The next cocktail was The Frothy Peanut, which I expected to be much richer than it was. It was a rum-based cocktail and for me, it was the sweetest cocktail of the three. I was getting a lot of fruitiness from the rum and lemon juice as well as the chocolate peanut milk. A lot of the other guests seemed to enjoy it, but I wasn't able to finish the whole thing. I appreciated the lightness of it, but I think it would have benefited from more a little more fat--which I don't think is a thing I've ever said about a cocktail before.
The final cocktail to try was the Nut-Tea-Punch, which I was expecting to enjoy more, as I do love a good gin drink. I love how it was served, and I think the picture came out perfectly because it was a VERY nut-forward cocktail. It was very tart, which I liked, but by the 4th sip it became too much. I was glad to have noticed a standard bar with beer, wine, and water available for the rest of the evening, as we waited sometimes impatiently for the milked peanut hors d'oeuvre trays to come around. The most popular seemed to be the grilled shrimp served with a sort of coconut peanut dipping sauce. There were definitely some inspired things happening in small bites, and they provided a couple of recipe cards for us to try at home--if only they'd actually been serving the chocolate peanut brownies! MMMM Brownies...
Anyway, you know I'm your omnivorous locavorish foodie, so I don't imagine I'll be abandoning Ronnybrook farms anytime soon for my own pantry. But, as someone who has plenty of dairy avoiders in her life, I can appreciate these alternatives. Most interestingly for me was that this was the old Elmhurst dairy that decided to pivot their operations to plant-based products within the last year. This is a true New York food company that's taken an old business and re-vamped it for the sustainable future, and that's something I can get behind.
Thanks to the National Peanut Board, Elmhurst (NON-Dairy), Project Farmhouse, East Wind Snack Shop, Seamstress, Thomas Preti, and Jackie Gordon for a pretty chill NYC-Style Mardi Gras non-party party. :) Happy Nutting!