Sunday, August 5, 2007

Tales of the Cocktail - Day Two

My day began with an entertaining seminar on the role of women in spirits and cocktails as presnted and performed by two of my favorite women in the business today: Charlotte Voisey and LeNell Smothers. They were dressed in 19th Century period garb and told stories of some of the most influential women in the industry. It was a nice way to start the day, but I had to run off as Ed Hamilton and his Rum Competition called. I was to be a judge in the 3rd Round: Premium Rums. (That's me and Ed with the tray of 22 rums that I tasted). It was two hours of focused tasting that left me a nice bounce in my step as I headed over to Cafe Giovanni to start prepping for our dinner. My results? #3 -Vizcaya VXOP 21 Year from Dominican Republic (scored 87); #2 - El Dorado 12 year from Guyana (scored 89) and #1 - Pyrat Cask 1623 from Anguilla (scored 92). For the total round up, see Ed's Ministry of Rum Site (see Drinks with my Friends below). After the rum contest, I headed over to Cafe Giovanni to meet with my co-workers for the evening: Francesco Lafranconi and Allen Katz, two of Southern Wine and Spirits' Directors of Mixology. Francesco and I had gone back and forth about the menu in the months prior to the event, but I basically took his lead as we pulled together a menu of 5 cocktails to be paired with Chef Duke's meal. It was actually as fun an afternoon of prepping cocktails as I've had getting to know these two great bartenders. Francesco pulled all of the stops and incuded such entertaining elements as flying in small crabs from Japan to be deep fried and "glued" to the base of a glass as a garnish. That's me, Francesco, Duke and Allen in the kitchen after revealing the box of live crabs to Duke. I think Duke thought Francesco was nuts at that point. By the end of the evening, he knew we were all nuts, and that we fit right in. Check out that shot of Allen with the crab on the glass. Hilarious. Anyway, 4 hours of prep for 5 rounds of 60 drinks and we were ready to serve. Our friends, new and old, arrived and we began slinging drinks. The food flowed, the people laughed and finally, we were done and ready to roll out into the night. This was a great night of fun for us and, I hope, for our guests. I look forward to doing a dinner like this again next year. I don't know if we can out do those crabs though...Here's one recipe (we were asked to use a new, limited edition product: Absolut New Orleans, a mango and black pepper vodka whose procedes will go to Gulf Hurricane Relief projects):

New Orleans Wine Cup
.5oz Absolut New Orleans
.5oz Barsol Pisco Quebranta
.5oz Harvey's Bristol Cream Sherry
3oz Trinchero Sauvignon Blanc
.25 rock candy syrup
a dash Herbsaint to coat glass
Pour all ingredients ina white wine glass coated with the Herbsaint and garnish with a sprig of thyme wrapped in a lace of orange zest.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Tales of the Cocktail - Day One

Day One at Tales of the Cocktail was not much of "day" for me since I didn't get into the Hotel Monteleon until about 7pm and we went right over to Harrah's for the Opening Cocktail Party. As soon as I entered, I recognized many of my friends and acquaintences from around the country. I knew right away that this was going to be one heck of an event from the talent in that room. But the reunion I was most excited about was seeing my first mentor in the industry, Chef Duke Lociciero. Chef Duke and I met in the summer of 1986 when I was a 16 year old beach bum on Long Beach Island, NJ. Duke had just finished his degree in Hyde Park and was a New Orleans fish out of water dropped in the center of "the Shore". To this day he can't believe how many breakfasts we'd do at Ott's Sea Ketch on a daily basis. The place was insane, and Duke taught me how to handle "insane". Chef Duke taught me how to use every tool in the kitchen, how to prep and how to pair. He put me through the fire and taught me every position on the line. When I left that summer, I had a whole new perspective on what work was and what food was. The work ethic, the palate and the passion are the take aways that have stayed with me ever since, and I owe it all to Duke. So when we re-connected after all of these years, I was thrilled to be a guest in his home town, where he is no small fish in a big food pond. He introduced me to his lovely wife Kelly and invited me and Jeff Hollinger back to Cafe Giovanni to see the restaurant and have my first Sazerac of the trip. This photo is at the bar. If you ever make it to New Orleans, stop by and see Duke and Kelly, and tell them H sent you!

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Check out all of the Day One Photos here:
Tales of the Cocktail Day One