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On the corner of 18th Street and Irving Place in the City of New York stands one of the oldest taverns in town, Pete’s. It’s a lively place with bartenders in matching black polo shirts serving food and drink to a clientele that is diverse in age and background. Thirty years earlier, when I first walked through those old wooden doors, the bartenders wore a white button-down shirt, bowties, and a servers apron. Pete’s was what I considered my first real adult watering hole. One that wasn’t necessarily a “happy hour” destination per se, nor a place to listen to loud music. The establishment seemed to have been filled with gentlemen which held themselves with dignity and knew how to handle their drinks.
“My name is Thornhill – Roger Thornhill – it’s never been anything else. I’m not Kaplan whoever he is!”. It’s a quote from my favorite Alfred Hitchcock film, “North by Northwest”, which starred Cary Grant. I heard this coming from the left-hand corner of the bar where three men catty-cornered themselves in an area that seemed to be exclusive to them.
There was one in specific who was wearing a winter-white cashmere turtleneck that matched his hair color, that caught me giggling at what they were doing, which was quoting movies and having the time of their lives. He brought me into the conversation and invited me over to their corner. I knew my share of quotes and held my own.
From that day onward, I became the younger statesman in the crew. Every time I entered those doors, I felt as if I were going to some sort of finishing school. Most of what I learned from a societal standpoint, I learned on that old cherry finished bar, from men who had much to impart. Especially the guy with the cashmere turtleneck. As years passed, the gap between age faded and we would become very close friends. But because of the early lessons he taught me, I still affectionately call him uncle, and he would refer to me as, nephew.
My favorite Bloody Mary was the one from Oak Room at the Plaza Hotel
I had my first Bloody Mary with him. I don’t remember the date, but I do remember that it was a Sunday, and we were watching the Eagles of Philadelphia playing our beloved men in blue, The New York Giants, in an NFL playoff game. This would be the impetus to many Sundays being spent enjoying many Bloody Mary’s for many years after. For some time, it was actually my favorite drink. My favorite Bloody Mary was the one that was made in the old Oak Room at the Plaza Hotel. Theirs would be replete with green olives, pickled pearl onion, and a shrimp cocktail, all pierced through by a long plastic sword that served as a skewer, which was gently dipped into the glass that held the drink. I miss the Oak Room, but mostly, I miss that drink and how beautiful it looked.
As I have gotten older, drinking Bloody Marys is no longer a Sunday requirement, but I still enjoy a few on a cold day, especially when football is being played on the television. My affinity for the “Bloody” is due to the fact that it satiates not only my want to have a drink but also hunger.
I’ve always thought that the ingredients which go into a Bloody Mary can easily translate into a solid dish (actually, I hardly needed anything to eat when having a Bloody).
This week, I decided to finally put into action what I always thought. I developed a dish made with the same ingredients that go into the drink with some additions. I think it makes for a perfect offering to have during your Super Bowl party.
- 2 lbs. Ground Beef (may substitute another ground protein such as pork, turkey, chicken, veal, etc.)
- 1 loaf extra thin Pepperidge Farm White Bread. If unattainable, try to get the thinnest sliced white bread you can find. (do not substitute with wheat or whole grain, it just does not work)
- Black Pepper
- Tabasco Sauce
- Worcester Sauce
- 1 large Vidalia Onion
- 1 egg
- 1 cup of breadcrumbs
- 1 28 oz. tin of San Marzano tomatoes
- Red Wine Vinegar
- 1 lb butter
- Olive oil
- In a medium saucepan, over medium heat, saute half an onion (diced) in olive oil with a pinch of salt, pepper, half a teaspoon of sugar, and a tablespoon of red wine vinegar. When the onion is opaque, add canned tomatoes and bring heat to low. Let simmer for one hour. Add parsley at the end.
- In a big bowl mix the following:
- Ground Beef.
- Half a teaspoon of salt and pepper.
- Tablespoon of Tabasco, Horseradish and Worcester Sauce.
- Chopped Celery
- Chopped Half-Onion
- Juice of Half a Lemon
- cup of breadcrumbs
- Chopped Parsley
- When thoroughly mixed, make 1” meatballs
- Butter one side of every slice of bread.
- Place meatballs in the center of the buttered side of bread slices and cover with buttered side of the second slice down. Press down as to spread the meat throughout. Repeat.
- If, muffins, cover muffin tin with bread, butter side up, and fill with meatball.
- Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, 350 degrees.
- Let cool and serve with stewed tomatoes as a dip.
Where to have Bloody Mary in New York:
The perennial brunch destination, Balthazar, makes some of the most traditional and best in town. They serve so many, that they just simply have the hang of mixture to vodka proportion. They also tend to make each as ordered, versus reaching for a prepared mixture.
For a variation on the original, try the Bourbon Bloody Mary at Root and Bone, where you can also find the best fried chicken in town.
Where to have Bloody Mary in the Venice:
Harry’s New York Bar in Paris claims to be the birthplace of the drink. Easy to believe as it was one of Hemingway’s favorite haunts. However, I think the one made in Harry’s Bar Venice is the one to have.
I telephoned my “uncle” today. We haven’t spoken for some time. He, of course, addressed me as nephew when he answered. We did a little catching up. Before hanging up, we made plans to meet for a Bloody Mary. Where? Pete’s Tavern, of course, while watching some football at our favorite corner of the bar, wearing our turtlenecks.
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