Thursday, September 15, 2011

Cocktail Spotlight: Chartreuse Swizzle

[ The Chartreuse Swizzle. $12. Enjoy it for only $8 at 320 Main's Tiki Night on Mon, Sept 26th at 7pm. ]

It's been a hot and sweaty past couple of weeks, but the one reason everyone can rejoice over this hot Indian Summer is that it gives us the perfect excuse to enjoy our favorite icy refreshments. One of 320 Main's favorite cocktails to make is the Chartreuse Swizzle and it is the perfect drink to cool you off on a hot September afternoon or evening. Here's how our bartender Matt Robold of describes his first time trying one: 

"The Chartreuse Swizzle is one of the sacred cows of new mixology. I can remember hearing about it being possibly the greatest drink ever created and having my doubts. I mean, it's a drink made with an herbal liqueur as its base. When you're still integrating yourself into the cocktail movement, the idea of a drink built fully around Chartreuse can seem a bit intimidating. Plus, what the heck is someone doing making a swizzle with anything other than rum? It sounds like blasphemy. The first time I had one, it was made by the master himself, Marco Dionysos. The Chartreuse Swizzle provides the perfect balance of spice, sweetness, and sour in a complex-tasting, simple-to-make, and utterly refreshing drink."

The Chartreuse Swizzle
The Chartreuse Swizzle is the brainchild of Marco Dionysos, renowned San Francisco bartender. Let's break it down. Firstly, what is a swizzle? Swizzles are a type of drink usually made with rum, but the use of a swizzle stick to mix the drink is where this family of cocktails derives its name (see picture above for visual aid on the swizzle stick). The Swizzlestick Tree is native to the islands of the Caribbean. A modern bar whisk or simple bar spoon can be used to do the trick as well.

The Chartreuse Swizzle is comprised of the following: 

The Chartreuse Swizzle's
namesake ingredient.
1 1/4 oz. green Chartreuse
1/2 oz. falernum*
1 oz. pineapple juice
3/4 oz. lime juice

*(a citrusy spiced syrup popular as an ingredient in many tiki drinks - click here for a great recipe from Rum Dood)

All the ingredients should be mixed together in a tall glass with crushed ice using a swizzle stick and then garnished with a sprig of mint and fresh nutmeg. A properly "swizzled" drink will form frost on the outside of the glass. The result is an incredibly delicious, complex and thirst quenching summer drink. 

The Mysterious History of Chartreuse
The Chartreuse liqueur is what really makes this drink unique. Equally as unique as its taste, is the French liqueur's history. The recipe for Chartreuse includes extracts from 130 different plants (the chlorophyll of which gives the spirit its green hue). Named after the Grande Chartreuse monastery in Grenoble, France, Carthusian Monks have been distilling this liqueur since the 1740's and its recipe is top secret. It is said that a French marshal presented an alchemical manuscript containing the "elixir to long life" to the Carthusian monks in 1605. Soon the Grande Chartreuse monastery received the recipe and began producing the elixir under the name of "Elixir Vegetal de la Grande Chartreuse". After a few minor enhancements, in the mid to late 1700's the monks began making what we now know as Green Chartreuse. No one has ever successfully reproduced the top secret recipe. Only two monks know how to prepare the herbal liqueur at any given time in history. Chartreuse has a very unique flavor and the Chartreuse Swizzle is a perfect introductory drink to ease into it. 

Tiki Night
Enjoy the Chartreuse Swizzle or one of the other featured drinks at 320 Main's Tiki Night this upcoming Monday, Sept. 26th. Normally $12, the Swizzle and any of the other featured drinks will be offered for only $8. Plus there will be $4 LA dogs or Chicago dogs and the best of the best will be behind the bar: 320 Main owner Jason Schiffer, Matt Robold (aka Rum Dood) and Marcos Tello of The Varnish in LA and 1886 in Pasedena. The fun starts at 7pm and ends at 11pm and the theme for this Tiki night is Tiki Nouveau. Grab your best Hawaiian shirt, head over to 320 Main next Monday night and enjoy this Indian Summer as it should be enjoyed - with a cold cocktail in hand.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Bacon Buffalo Burger

The Bacon Buffalo Burger at 320 Main - $15. Comes with fries, Sriracha Coleslaw or a salad and pickle.

320 Main has recently introduced a spectacular lunch menu. Previously only open for dinner, 320 Main's owners worked with head chef James Wilschke to create a selection of exceptional lunch items, the crown jewel of which is the mouth watering Bacon Buffalo Burger. No Americana restaurant's lunch menu would be complete without a burger, but 320 Main owners Jason and Rebecca Schiffer didn't want to offer just any burger on their lunch menu. "We wanted to offer an exceptional burger," says Jason.
Chartreuse Swizzle

"We wanted to stick with traditional Americana, but with a modern palette," explains Chef Wilschke, creator of the burger. "Modern Americana." The burger features red onion confit, arugula, heirloom tomatoes, and thick-cut black forest bacon on a mammoth, free-range buffalo patty grilled to the customer's liking. "I just took all of my favorite things and put them together. The black forest bacon has changed my whole perception of bacon," explains Chef Wilschke laughing. And last but not least, perhaps the most delicious and unique part about 320 Main's savory burger: Atop every buffalo burger comes a fried egg.

One bite of the Bacon Buffalo Burger and there will be no doubt in your mind that The Schiffer's and Chef Wilschke are culinary wizards. Pair your burger with a choice of fries, spicy slaw, or a salad, and a refreshing Chartreuse Swizzle (see left). To see what else 320 Main has cooking up for lunch, check out their menu here.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Getting To Know The Owners

JASON: I have been in the restaurant industry since I was 15, starting as a busser at an Italian restaurant in Michigan. It wasn’t till 1998 when I started working at the Voodoo Lounge in Las Vegas as a bar-runner and was captivated by the bar. It was Ken Hall and Allen Mays (at the time, the top flair bartenders in the world) who inspired me to make bartending a career. Needless to say, working in a flair environment, I learned a few tricks. Just enough to be fun, but not enough to be good. Between Ken, Allen and the general manager, I was scolded a few times for flipping bottles before I learned how to tend bar. Their advice: "crawl before you walk, walk before you run," something I’ve been told most of my life but actually heard for the first time here. I went out and purchased any and every cocktail book I could find and read each one from cover to cover. I learned about stirring vs. shaking, fresh produce, the importance of ice, measurement, and much, much more. I was captivated by the history behind these cocktails and was hit with a sense of pride to learn that the cocktail is uniquely an American concept. 
     As my career progressed beyond the VooDoo Lounge, back to Troppo in Michigan, then back to Vegas at the Rum Jungle, one question lingered in my mind, why don’t bars make drinks like the ones I read about anymore? Sometime around 2003 when I moved to California I started noticing a small interest in classic cocktails like the Old Fashioned, the Manhattan and the Negroni. Over the next few years I continued reading and expanding my knowledge of the craft. In 2005 I realized the ever growing interest in classic cocktails. It wasn’t until the end of 06 I left my bar gig at the Continental Room in downtown Fullerton and focused my attention on finding a restaurant of my own. 
     In 09 I joined the United States Bartenders Guild - Los Angeles chapter and began to really understand what was going on in the cocktail community. The USBGLA had just elected Marcos Tello as its president and I got to see firsthand bartenders that had actually been tending bar the way I had read about; and not just according to the books I read, but according to cocktail books that dated as far back as 1862. They had broken down these techniques, consulted with cocktail historians and scientists to even go beyond the ancient craft they were trying to resurrect. These guys and gals were not just bringing the trade back but, taking over from where it left off. This is when I completely handed myself over to the study of this forgotten trade.

REBECCA: An Orange County Native, my first job in a restaurant was in 2001. My fascination with cocktails began during my first training on a bar menu, and the many Long Island variations at Spoons in Buena Park. From there I worked at a few chain restaurants working my way up from server to bartender. Meeting Jason in 2003 really helped my career because he trained me how to be a great bartender.
     Over those years not only did I learn valuable customer service lessons, I was able to experience what made the hospitality industry so unique. The bonds that are created by a group of people working so hard for a common goal are special and if it’s the right fit for you, these relationships can be like family. I loved serving people and when I left the industry for a few years after college I honestly missed it. So when Jason was ready to go full force into ownership, I was on board! A few other odd jobs here & there helped me gain the skill set to organize the business end of things.