Thursday, November 9, 2017

Down the Gentian Rabbit Hole with Bruto Americano #CooktheBooks

For this round - our October-November selection - of Cook the Books, the book selection was chosen by Claudia from Honey from Rock. She chose The Patriarch: A Mystery of the French Countryside by Martin Walker.* You can read Claudia's invitation in the book announcements: here.

On the Page
This mystery, set in a sleepy French village, has a whole host of characters who could be interesting, but I just couldn't make myself care about any of them. Really. I slogged my way through the pages, even carting it along on a three-day robotics competition, but found the characters were disappointingly one-dimensional. And the plot seemed contrived as if the author were struggling to churn out the tenth book in the series. I might give one of the earlier books a try, but this one was not too appealing to me.

While I wasn't enamored with the book, I did enjoy the descriptions of food that were sprinkled throughout.

"Soon they were sipping Riesling and munching their way through the Alsace specialty that the French call tarte flambée. Bruno always thought of it as a Teutonic form of pizza. The thin crust of pastry covered in crème fraîche, thinly sliced onions and bacon. Monique served it with two salads, one of tomatoes and basil and the other of lettuce and chives" (p.131).

"And what a fine dinner it was. I have here the menu. It started with a fine vegetarian dish, a cream of mushroom soup. It was followed by fois gras de Périgord and then by médaillons de chevreuil, kindly provided by the hunting club of Nontron" (p.178).

I was taken by the images evoked by the boar... "starting to build the fire, and then bringing out the wild board to impale them on the long spits, stuff their stomach cavities with herbs and then sew them shut with wire. Bruno usually brought branches of bay leaves, armfuls of rosemary, sage, and wild garlic. The baron was always the one to light the fire. Others would bring the pots of honey and liters of wine..." (p.252).

In the Glass
While I considered tracking down some wild boar - I've made Braised Boar Shanks, Wild Boar Rilettes, and Wild Boar-Mushroom Pot Pies - or venison - I've made Seared Venison Medallions, Venison Kabobs, and Venison Osso Buco - I decided to use this as an opportunity to get familiar with gentiane, a gentian liqueur.

"A trolley with two shelves on castors stood against one wall, cold meats, pâtés, cheese, rolls and a seedcake on the lower shelf, plates and cutlery, glasses and two bottles on the upper. One bottle was wine...the other was gentiane, the yellow apéritif from the gentiane root that grew locally" (p.266).

I've never heard of gentian! So, I did some reading and thought I'd share what I learned in case you were unfamiliar, too.

Gentian liqueurs have a long history as a popular aperitif in France, specifically in the Auvergne region, where the drink was originally made. To create the liqueur, the root stalks of gentian are infused into a base alcohol with a few other botanicals. While I found several different brands of gentian liqueurs, I needed to find one without quinine. Eureka!

I discovered one made by St. George Spirits whose tongue-in-cheek name - Bruto Americano - means 'ugly American.' If you enjoy the bitterness of Campari, I guarantee you'll like this. And I love that it doesn't have any food coloring in it.

Bruto is crafted with gentian root, balsam fir and Cascara sagrada (the bark from the coffee cherry bush). It boasts a complex woody bitterness, with California-grown citrus that adds some sunniness to the blend. I chose to make my version of a negroni made with Bruto.

Ingredients makes one cocktail
  • 1 ounce Bruto Americano
  • 1 ounce gin
  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth
  • Also needed: thin citrus slice for garnish

Stir Bruto Americano, gin, and vermouth in tumbler; garnish with slice of citrus. I used some Buddha's Hand citron.

*This blog currently has a partnership with in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to and search for the item of your choice.

I am also linking this post to the Foodie Reads Challenge. 
Here's what everyone else read in November 2017: here.


  1. I wasn't crazy about the novel either but it was loaded with foodie inspiration for sure. I love Campari so I'm sure I would like this as well.

    1. Yes! I love Campari...just not too excited about that red 40. ;)

  2. I missed the gentiane reference but at some point I started reading really fast (skimming). I enjoyed Bruno's observations but probably won't be following him further through the beginning of the series. Great cocktail!!!! Love that citrus and the name of the liqueur

  3. I am intrigued by liqueur--like Debra, I love the name. ;-) It sounds like a great cocktail and I love the use of the Buddha's hand too.

  4. People here in the US tend to be afraid of both boar and venison - I love them both!

  5. Interesting how the novel inspired drinks in particular. Cool photo with Buddha's Hand, one of the most amazing fruits on the planet.


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