Thursday, January 31, 2008

'These aren't the food items you're looking for...'

I went down to Tailor to give the "solids" cocktails a spin. I wasn't expecting to, but ended up running into Eben Freeman (previously) on my way downstairs to the bar. We exchanged greetings and he said he'd be down in a few.

Even though the bar is downstairs, it's not a dark tucked away affair, but is a whole other level of the restaurant that's pretty bustling.

As I looked over the menu, I realized that besides the solids I had no idea what else I was going to have. I needed a plan of attack. Since I was going for solid cocktails, I figured why not go for "drinks that taste like non-drinks"? Though quite honestly, when you look at Tailor's beverage menu, a lot straddles the line with food-based flavors. For example, the "Tailor Made" spirits include the Pumpernickel Raisin Scotch, as well as a Huitalacoche Mescal.

The Grape Nut Shochu used for the Asa Gohan (Grape Nut shochu, Crazy Milk Sake and raspberry)? Flavored with real cereal. Bartender Alex said that the infusion process required vacuum sealing the mixture to help draw out the flavor.

I had a Pumpernickel Flip while I waited for the solid cocktails to be prepared upstairs. Made with aforementioned pumpernickel raisin scotch, pomegranate, molasses, egg yolk and freshly grated nutmeg.

Eben got behind the bar to mix some drinks and was asked if he was doing a hard shake. Eben laughed and said that since he talked about it in a Food & Wine article, "I have to do it all the time now."

Eric, a fan of Eben's work who followed him to Tailor from WD-50 came in and Eben served him his usual, bourbon and elderflower syrup. Eric explained that it's not on the menu at Tailor, but he used to order it at WD-50.

The solids arrive plated like little appetizers. The order suggested by Eben is to eat the Cuba Libre jelly, then the Ramos Gin Fizz marshmallow, and finally the White Russian breakfast cereal.

The Cuba Libre jelly cube used to be a gin and tonic jelly cube, but Eben said he decided that he didn't want two gin drinks together. Also, since it was a cube of jelly, it sort of made a pun with "Cuba." One thing to know about Eben Freeman is that he likes puns. It's fitting that he's a fan of this particular device that uses confusion between similar things since what he does with cocktails is much the same. Food techniques and flavors somehow manage to find their way into beverage form around Mr. Freeman.

Eben explained that since a well-made Ramos Gin Fizz is almost meringue-like, it seemed like a natural conclusion to make a marshmallow with it.

As for the crispy cereal in the White Russian? It's real cereal tossed in Kahlua, then blasted in a dehydrator, then tossed in Kahlua and blasted once more. The "milk" is vodka, simple syrup and half-and-half. Drinking this one is a bit of a challenge since if you're not careful a bulk of the cereal stays in the bowl and all you get is milk. It's best to try and throw it back as vigorously as possible without hurting your neck.

I wasn't sure what I was expecting, but it's definitely a weird Jedi mind trick to pop a bit of brown jelly sitting on a lime chip in your mouth only to get hit with an alcoholic tang. Or to look at what looks like a miniature bowl of Cocoa Krispies, only to empty the bowl into your mouth and think, "White Russian."

The Crumble I had afterwards provided a same sort of complex disconnect. Made with brown butter, a lime and clove cordial called Falernum and pear cider. The brown butter taste is there. Buttery and fruity. Simply put, it was crumble-esque.

Alex explained that the brown butter rum is made by fat washing, a process I talked about previously in regards to the foie gras bourbon created by Don Lee at PDT.

The Crumble comes with a square block of ice sitting in the middle of the cup. I asked Alex why that is and he said that smaller pieces of ice provide too much surface area which then makes the ice melt faster, diluting the drink. So to keep dilution at a minimum and the bubbles in the cider alive, a huge block of ice is used to cool it.

"Like those huge balls of ice Japanese bartenders use?" I asked.

"Yea." Alex answered. "You know they actually hand carve those? We haven't gotten that ridiculous yet."

I ended the evening with a Bazooka. And I really wish I had more occasions to use that line. It's exactly what you'd think it'd be. It's a cocktail with bubble gum flavor. Oddly enough I will say that vodka, bubble gum cordial and house sour does not taste odd at all.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Dueling sangrias

More musical metaphors to follow in this entry...

Last night a pulled a Thorn (that's my word for going to more than one event in a evening. It's going to catch on. I can feel it), and hit two press events. The first was at Cafe Clubhouse and the second at Omido.

Both events featured an open bar with a selection of signature cocktails. The ones that were touted at Clubhouse Cafe were a sangria and caipirinha, while over at Omido, they were serving several cocktails such as a shiso mojito and a strawberry and shiso martini.

I had both the sangria and caipirinha at Cafe Clubhouse, and then had a sake sangria and shiso mojito at Omido. I noted the flavor difference in both drinks.

At Cafe Clubhouse, the sangria was a cloudy maroon color, hinting that besides wine there was probably some additional juice or juices in there as well, which gave it a really full fruity flavor that I'd compare to...a sonorous French horn. While over at Omido, the sake sangria was clear and the liquid smelled of fruit and the fruit pieces had an alcoholic bite. It was light, bright and less sweet than the sangria at Cafe Clubhouse...more like a flute.

Both different considering the different foods I had at each location. The heavy tuba sangria held up against the duck empanadas, tiny sliders, chili, lollipop fried chicken and miniature cones of fries. The light flute sangria played its high solo over the sushi and sashimi served at Omido.

Cafe Clubhouse had familiar faces. I ran into Akiko Katayama then NRN foodwriter Bret Thorn, who graciously introduced me to Andrea Strong. Before running out of Cafe Clubhouse to walk to Omido, I said bye to Bret and tried to get some quick photo taking tips out of Jamie Tiampo. Specifically for cocktails. He said that liquids were difficult, and the best advice he could give was to try and get natural light. Flash is not the friend of liquids.

But then I said that a lot of bars were dark and not well-lit for photography, making the job even more difficult, and he agreed sympathetically.

I really do wish I could bring more photos to this blog, but the quality of photos I take with the camera I have available sometimes makes me think I need to invest in a heavy duty one.