Archive

Uncategorized

It has been a little minute, so let us get down to it, shall we? 

The new job is still pretty incredible.  I’m glad that our honeymoon hasn’t ended yet.  Here is a short list of things I’ve learned so far:

  • Creating a new wine list is stressful.
  • Creating a new wine list is fun because you get to do a lot of sampling.
  • Creating a new wine list is rewarding. 
  • Alliances.  You’ll need them.
  • Wander around, and go places you probably shouldn’t.  You find some really good stuff that way.
  • Have the other manager’s backs.
  • Don Corleone was wrong: It’s business, and personal.
  • Keep a cool head.  You’ll earn a lot of respect that way.
  • Country clubs and restaurants are very different animals.

That last point is no complaint; it’s a sort of blessing.  In a regular restaurant, the guest has no real attachment, no fidelity.  A few shining stars might, but by and large your customer base is volatile.  If something goes wrong, they won’t tell their server, they won’t alert a manager.  They will simply go somewhere else the next time. 

In a country club, the guests have a vested interest in the success of the business: it is their club.  They are proud of it.  They bring in their friends to show it off.  They host tournaments against other clubs to show it off.  They want it to be the best, and as a manager, I want my restaurant to be the best.  It’s a win-win.  There are actual lines of communication between me and the members.  They know my name.  Some have my phone number.  If something is wrong, they tell me so I can fix it.  And if something is right, they tell me so I can make sure it keeps happening.  

There is more feedback given to me here from the members, other department heads, and owners, than was given in a year at my last job.  It’s really quite amazing.  This place reminds me why I’ve stuck with the service industry, and makes me hopeful that there is a future in it. 

I know that this isn’t about poetry or bartending.  There is no recipe this time around, no analysis of clouds flying past.  This is what is on my mind and on my heart.  I’m ready to take this place on.  Molon Labe.  I just need to get a new pair of Shoes for Crews first.

Advertisements

There’s a long queue of things I want to post, things I’m dying to write about, but life threw me one big wrench last month, and plans changed.

I had been employed by the same company for 5 1/2 years.  I started out as a busser, worked up to server and bartender, then head server, assistant manager, and general manager.  I started out having no restaurant experience and knowing nothing about alcohol or bartending, and ended up having my drink recipes put on the menu at other restaurants in the company, and being put in charge of a failing restaurant because my bosses thought that if anyone in the company could fix it, it would be me. 

The restaurant had been open a little over two years, and was losing money from the word go.  After seven months with it under my control, the owners decided to pull the plug and go into a partnership with another bar in town.  Twenty-two of my twenty-three member staff were laid off.  A few weeks before, my district manager told me that if the place folded, I would be safe, transferred to another store.  His word was no good, and I was one of the twenty-two.  I was given a whole two weeks severance pay, and found out that my benefits were actually cancelled before I was laid off. 

The next day I was rehired into the company by my old boss, the man who had hired me on the spot as a busser five years ago.  He brought me on knowing that I considered myself only an employee of his, not of the company, and that when another opportunity arose, I would be gone.  Two weeks later, that opportunity came. 

A friend recommended that I take an application to one of the country clubs in town, because she knew they had a bar, and that women in their forties and above love me.  She told me that if I got a job there, I could just recite a few poems to those aforementioned women, and watch the tips roll in.  So I brought in a resume on Monday, was called back on Tuesday for my references, was called back Wednesday schedule an interview on Thursday, called Thursday afternoon to schedule a meeting Friday morning to discuss my salary and job description, and I started working that day.

The new place is breathtaking, huge, has great members, a great staff, and treats me with the respect I deserve, but is not living up to its full potential.  I hired on one of my friends, who I have somewhat stolen from my previous employer (they took my family’s health insurance, I don’t mind taking a few of their better people), to help me retrain the staff, and to help me bring this place to the level where it deserves to be.  I went from not being able to sleep at night because of the stress of not knowing where rent was going to come from to not being able to sleep at night because of pure, pure, excitement.  ‘We’re going to have fun’ has become my motto, and I believe it.  My personal insecurities have been vanquished.  This place needed me as much as I needed it.  We are going to have fun.

The morals of my story are that this is a volatile industry, that ‘it’s business, not personal’ has it’s limits, that a knife in the back stings, that when one door closes, a better one can open, and that my friends have my back. 

The next post here will go back to crazy recipes and literary history, I promise.  I don’t get serious often (see: ever), so don’t get used to it. 

-Josh

PS Champlain. 

One of my earliest memories of alcohol is going out to dinner with my grandparents to celebrate my grandpa getting some large commission, or closing escrow on a property, or who knows what else; I was young, and we were going to a ‘fancy’ restaurant.  The restaurant was old-school classy: dimly lit with dark wood and moose heads and ducks and wild boars mounted on the walls.  The kind of place that hit it’s peak in the 60’s, and has steadfastly held its ground.

   
My grandpa couldn’t remember the name of his favorite drink when the server came around.  My family has never been composed of drinkers, clearly.  The process went something like this:
 
Grandpa: Uh, it has bourbon and vermo-
Waiter: A Manhattan.
Grandpa: Yeah, that’s it.
 
A Manhattan.  Being very young, and growing up with a mother who discouraged alcohol so strongly that one would think it to be heroin heroin, I was amazed that alcohol could be mixed and named.  Until that point in my life, alcohol was beer, wine, and those mysterious brown bottles on the top shelf of my grandparent’s pantry that were neither of the prior.  I may have even known the words ‘Martini’ and ‘Brandy’.  And now, a Manhattan. 
 
When I was old enough to drink, I didn’t.  When I was a busser in a restaurant that was short on bartenders, I learned how to mix drinks that I had never tried before, and how to enjoy them.  And it was there that I found, buried in the pages of Old Mister Boston, the Manhattan. 
 
To this day, the Manhattan is still my favorite.  The Pimm’s Cup is great on a hot day, and a Bishop on a cold one, but the Manhattan still sits in a place of honor at the top of my cocktail menu that I keep saying I’ll print and start using at work someday.   The same work where, some years ago, a this slightly nervous busser was asked if he wanted to tend bar, and where my passion for these spirits was born.
 
In the next few days, I’ll post all things Manhattan; bourbon and maraschino spiced cherries and bacon infused ryes and white whiskeys and Benedictine and shrubs.  Keep your eyes peeled.

Today is the birthday of Alfred, Lord Tennyson (August 6, 1809-October 6 1892).  He held the position of Poet Laureate of Great Britain and Ireland for a record forty-two years, from 1850 until his death in 1892. 

In 1833 the passing of his dear friend and fellow poet Arthur Henry Hallam prompted him to write In Memoriam A.H.H.  Tennyson wrote the poem over the course of seventeen years, and from it come the lines 

I hold it true, whate’er befall;
         I feel it, when I sorrow most;
         ‘Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.
 
Tennyson also wrote ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade‘, a poem commemorating a failed charge of British Light Cavalry against heavily entrenched Russian forces during the Crimean War in 1854.  It is from this poem that we received the well known couplet ‘Theirs not to reason why, Theirs but to do and die‘.

 
 

This week’s drink special is, on a personal level, a thing of terror: it has pineapple.  I hate pineapple.  But every now and then, I must remind myself that I’m not making drinks for myself, I’m making drinks for whoever will buy them.  Not everyone likes terribly spiritous cocktails, and some people don’t drink like a seventy-five year old man (exempli gratia; me).  Some people like pineapple and coconut, even though I abhor them.  Enter ‘OMH’s Obligatory Tropical Summer Drink’.

The OOTSD is rare to me in that it is not accompanied by a poem (though there is an arguement for the name to be changed to ee cummings I Like My Body.  Time will tell on that point), and that it is a tiki style drink, which is a genre of imbibing I haven’t yet dipped my toes in to.

Now that I’ve explained the poor thing to death, here is the recipe and the recipes for the things that go in the recipe.

Inception Recipes:

Orgeat Syrup – Taken largely from Imbibe.com, but with some noted deviations.

2 1/4 cups raw almonds, sliced
3 1/2 cups tap water
3 1/2 cups distilled or filtered water
1/2 cup turbinado sugar
1 oz Everclear
The peel of one slice of orange

  • Take the almonds and break them up into pretty coarse bits, then put them along with the tap water into a bowl for about an hour.  Why?  I don’t know, but every orgeat recipe calls for this step.
  • When the hour is up, strain the tap water out, and replace it with the distilled or filtered water. Let this mix sit for 5-6 hours.  Since orgeat is a lighter syrup, the flavor of tap water can really put a damper on the overall flavor of the syrup.
  • While the almonds are steeping into the filtered water, put the everclear and orange peel into a separate container and allow it to infuse.   Be sure to shave off as much of the bitter pith as possible.  Most recipes call for orange blossom water and vodka, but since that would require procuring orange blossom water, I improvised.
  • Once the time is up, filter the almond chunks from the water and discard them.  Since there aren’t really any fine pieces, a clean towel will suffice as the filter.  At this point, also remove the orange peel from the everclear.
  • Pour the almond water, orange infused everclear, and sugar into a pint bottle.  Cap the bottle, and shake until the sugar has dissolved.

The alcohol is an important part of the syrup, as it acts as a preservative.  With it, the syrup will keep about a month refrigerated, without it, about a week.  Bare that in mind should you decide to forgo it.

Malibu and Pineapple Ice

Pineapple juice
Malibu Liqueur
Ice tray

Mix one part Malibu to four parts pineapple juice, pour into an ice tray, and freeze.

The Drink

1.5 coconut vodka (I used New Amsterdam.  Cali pride.)
1 House Orgeat Syrup (The first recipe below)
One Malibu and Pineapple Ice Cube (Second recipe below)

  • Put vodka and orgeat syrup into a mixing glass, and stir with regular ice.
  • Strain into a rocks glass.
  • Add Pineapple ice.
  • Enjoy the magic.

When I say enjoy the magic, I’m not talking about how wonderful the drink is.  I’m talking about the ice.  Since it isn’t frozen water, the drink doesn’t dilute.  The first sips will be coconut, and the creamy, ever so delicate citrus of the orgeat, and strong.

ImageImage

While the ice melts, it introduces two new flavors, pineapple, and a hint of rum, as well as bolstering the confidence of the beloved coconut.

Still got it.

Image

My untested drink has been tested, and the results are in: it needs work. 

The recipe was based on TS Eliot’s ‘The Lovesong of J Alfred Prufrock’: my favorite poem.  The poem my kids ask me to read them at bed time, that haunts my mind constantly, that I recite like a madman while walking around the restaurant.  An epic poem deserving an epic drink.  It fell flat.  In a way.

The drink worked.  It didn’t convey the experience I wanted, but I’ll survive.  I hope.

1.5 ounces bourbon (Eliot was born in the South, but grew up in England.  I may replace the bourbon with gin)
1 ounce vanilla bean peach syrup (‘Do I dare to eat a peach?’)
A few dashes tincture of black tea (‘after tea and cakes and ices’)
A coffee spoon of marmalade (‘I have measured out my life in coffee spoons’, ‘After the cups, the marmalade, the tea’)

For total transparency, I didn’t have marmalade on hand, so proceed at your own risk on that one.

The drink was thick, and not as strong as expected, which I attribute to the peach liqueur, so I’ll tell you a story about myself: I forget every damn thing.  I write things of importance down on little slips of receipt paper, put them in my pocket, then take them out at home and place them unceremoniously in the top drawer of the dresser.  In the same fashion, I wrote down the steps I had taken to make said peach liqueur, and they now sleep soundly in that drawer, along with several dozen other recipes and ideas.  That said, I had only used peach syrup in the drink.  There was no alcohol in it.  There is still no alcohol in it.  The slip of paper saying ‘add alcohol to this on Monday’ is MIA, so I drank peach syrup.  Not as strong as expected, and far more sweet than it should be,  but still pretty tasty.  The vanilla bean in the syrup made the drink taste like a cobbler with bourbon.  Good, but not Prufrock good.  Back to the drawing board.

Read the poem here: http://www.bartleby.com/198/1.html

Something is coming.  I don’t know what, but it is. 

In the next couple days, I’ll be posting a new drink inspired by TS Eliot’s ‘The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock’, as well as the recipes within said recipe.  I hope that 1) you’re ready for it, and that 2) it actually turns out.  

Mostly, I just hope that it turns out.