Amy Huddle, inventor of the Oishi Caesar, is still reeling after her Japan-inspired cocktail took home first prize and $5,000 from the Bearfoot Bistro's Bloody Caesar competition.
"I was very surprised. I was even surprised I got picked (to compete). I submitted the recipe about a month-and-a-half ago and I was quite pleased to be part of the process," she said. "Then to actually win it was a little over the top!
The presentation Caesars included three for tasting and one for a photograph. Huddle says the three were blind tasted by the judges, who had the drinks brought individually to them in the Bearfoot Bistro's wine cellar.
"People were wandering through, watching us go," Huddle said. "The feedback was great. A lot of people were really enjoying the Caesar, but it was so busy and so much mayhem that all you could do was say, 'Thank you!' But I did have people coming back to ask me if I was selling the rim recipe or if they could take some home. Stuff like that. It was cute."
The rim, for those wondering, includes sea salt, togarashi spice, crushed toasted sesame seeds, and bonito flakes.
Huddle calls it the Oishi Caesar because it translates as "Tasty" Caesar in Japanese.
During the competition, which ran alongside the World Invitational Oyster Shucking competition at the Whistler Golf Club on Sunday, June 29, Huddle put together around 600 Oishi Caesars.
"It was really great to compete. We were side by side with Alta Bistro, who were the winners last year. There was some trash talking followed by, 'Oh my God, that tastes so good!' We were trying each other's recipes," she laughed. "I guess we weren't really trash talking. We were trying, but it wasn't going very well."
Huddle called the event "wildly successful." Funds raised from the day went to Playground Builders — a Canadian charity dedicated to building playgrounds in war-torn areas around the world — and the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation.
Currently acting front-of-house manager at Sushi Village, Huddle is also a seasoned chef, bartender and restaurateur in her own right. She took inspiration for the drink from her current role.
"Honestly, it was a case of being inspired by the people I work with. Sushi Village has the most amazing kitchen, really talented and excellently trained Japanese chefs, and I'm privileged to eat the food quite often," she laughed.
"When the Caesar contest came around I thought maybe I could make up a recipe using Japanese ingredients because they were so available and handy to me."
Huddle spent several days developing and taste testing different mixes at Sushi Village, where she has worked for the last two-and-a-half years, before settling on the Oishi. She has lived in Whistler for over 15 years.
"I was taste-testing a lot of Caesars. I got help from people at Sushi Village. The opinions would be 'too hot' or 'not hot enough'... I just kept tweaking it until I got the right recipe," she added.
Caesars require two main ingredients, said Huddle, a high-quality alcohol, whether vodka, gin or tequila, and clamato juice.
"Everything else is subject to interpretation, and that's what I love about Caesars. It can get as ridiculous as people putting slices of pizza in them, so as simple as your garden variety with Worcester and hot sauces and a celery rim. It's a lot of fun to create Caesars; it's a very versatile drink. You can create your own Caesar for your backyard barbecue," Huddle said.
She noted that restaurants across Whistler have their own signature Caesars. Huddle co-founded and ran The Burrow restaurant in Squamish from 2006 to 2009, where they had an entire page of Caesar variations.
"We had infused vodka ones, another called The Cowboy, which was full of beef jerky and a smoky barbecue sauce! It's amazing to think I've won this prize based on a Sunday Afternoon Caesar," she said.
Although she is not acting as a chef or bartender at the moment, Huddle is still keenly interested in the two roles.
"The thing about me is that I am incredibly enthusiastic about food and beverage, I'm also president of the Whistler Food and Beverage Association," Huddle said.
"I really love the business, every aspect of it. I love the food, the drink, the socialization... I think it's the best place for me. I call myself an enthusiastic home cook. I'm really passionate about researching and learning and finding new things."
Asked if the Oishi Caesar will be available at Sushi Village now, Huddle laughed.
"Oh yes," she said.
"Oishi Caesar" Japanese inspired Caesar recipe
2 Tbsp Togarashi Spice
1/2 cup coarse Sea Salt
1/2 cup Toasted and Crushed Sesame Seeds
1 Tbsp Bonito Flake, crumbled
1/2 oz wasabi
1/2 oz low sodium soy sauce
1 oz Ponzu sauce
1oz Sushi Village's legendary Spicy Tofu Sauce
1/2 oz Bulldog brand Tonkatsu Sauce
1/8oz Freshly grated ginger
1/2oz Daikon (grated Japanese radish)
Mix all ingredients and store in squeeze bottle
Tempura'd prawn (tail on), cucumber spear and black sesame seeds
Dip large glass into plate with 1/4 inch of sake, then into above rim recipe.
Add: 1 oz Ketel One Vodka, 1 oz Premium Cold Sake, 3 oz standard Clamato,
1 oz Seasoning Mix from above and top with ice. Stir. Win $5,000!