Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Army Navy

Gin and lemon are two flavors that were almost certainly designed by some higher power to be placed in the same glass.

From the Aviation to the Tom Collins to the (in)famous Ramos Gin Fizz, gin, lemon, and sugar have been mixed together with astoundingly good results for over a century. The basics of this formula are generally referred to as the “Gin Sour” family of drinks, and it's a large family. The fun part of working within a drink family like the Gin Sour, is that by adding an ingredient here (like crème de violette in the Aviation) or changing out the sweetener – say from sugar to orgeat – you can create an entirely new drink.

Army Navy
2 oz Gin
1 oz Lemon
3/4 oz Orgeat
2 dashes Angostura Bitters

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.

Orgeat is a syrup made from almonds. The name is French and the syrup can often be found in tropical drinks like Mai Tais. One interesting fact about orgeat is that the name actually derives from the French word for barley, orge. Original recipes for orgeat were basically sugared barley water, in which barley was added to sugar and hot water and then steeped. Somewhere along the way people stopped using barley and switched to almonds, but the name never changed.

We're very glad that the recipe went to almond instead of sticking to barley because the almond flavor in the Army Navy is superb. By taking the basic gin sour and replacing sugar with orgeat and adding a few dashes of bitters, the resulting drink is a cocktail with a fuller mouthfeel and rounder flavors thanks to the richness of the orgeat and the effect of the bitters on the entire conglomeration.

Matt “RumDood” Robold is a bartender at 320 Main and, in his spare time, runs RumDood.com, where he writes about rum, rum cocktails, and rum history.

Monday, August 13, 2012

320 Main Wine Dinner Recap

Diners enjoying the company.
320 Main recently debuted their brand new - and oh-so-improved - wine list; a carefully crafted menu curated by So Cal leading wine expert, George Pavlov. Now 320 Main's wine list can live up to the standard of its craft cocktail menu. 

Anything shiny and new must be shown off. It's human nature. So Jason and Rebecca Schiffer invited Orange County to come and be wowed by their shiny new wine list at their very first Wine Dinner. Jason and Head Chef James Wilschke put together a seven course menu, perfectly pairing each vintage with classic 320 Main dishes and some new specially created dishes. To plan the perfectly paired menu, James and Jason had to get extremely familiar with the subtle intricacies of each wine. Each wine was tasted numerous times during the menu planning in the weeks leading up to the wine night. After much diligent research, James was able to finalize a  seven course menu that would fully showcase the greatness of the new and improved wine list. 

On the day of the event tables were moved, glasses were shined, the service staff was quizzed and chefs diligently prepped for the 20 guests that would soon be arriving to this intimate gathering. The guests began to trickle in around 7:00. "In the beginning, it can be awkward when everyone walks into the room and as a host you have to figure out how to bring everyone together to create a uniquely human experience over food and drink," explains Jason. But wine is the great social relaxer. Once the food was served and the wine began to flow, all awkwardness dissipated and the guests began chatting between tables, sharing thoughts and noting their favorites. That's what makes these special event nights so... well, special! The night is more than just an isolated dining experience for two, it's a celebration of how good food can unite strangers and make them feel like old friends. "The most inspiring part of the night," continues Jason, "is when you find the connection has occurred and you're getting the whole room to sync. Then it becomes a true culinary experience."

See the photos below for a glimpse inside the fun of the night. Don't despair if you missed out on this one, because Jason and Rebecca plan on having more in the future. In addition to an occasional wine dinner, they plan to hold whiskey dinners, beer dinners and cocktail dinners. Sure to make you the most well rounded amateur foodie in Orange County.

Wine Night attendees enjoying a pre-dinner course courtesy of Chef Wilschke

Amuse Bouche: Bacon wrapped Prawn with Mango Gastrique paired with a glass of St. Hilaire Blanquette de Limoux. 

320 Main Manager Dave Castillo enjoying the Rose.

Course 1: Scallop Ceviche paired with: Birichino Vin Gris (Rose of Grenache) 

Course 2: Mussels with Chorizo paired with: Schloss Gobelsburg Gruner Veltliner 

Course 3: Grave Lox with Creme Fraiche paired with: Alta Maria Sauvignon Blanc 

Chef Wilschke and the 320 Main kitchen hard at work.

Course 4: Pork Belly with Pickled Vegetables paired with: Folk Machine Pinot Noir.

Course 5: Filet Mignon with King Oyster Mushrooms paired with: Hobo Zinfandel.

Course 6: Lamb Chop with Roasted Root Vegetables paired with: Three Saints Syrah. 

Final Course: Fruit and Cheese Plate paired with: Strub Niersteiner Riesling. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

320 Main's New & Improved Wine List

320 Main's new red wine list.

Change is a scary thing. It can be even scarier when what you want to change is something that you don't feel lies in your wheelhouse.

For years 320 Main has worked tirelessly to build on the strengths of its kitchen and bar staff. The result has been a restaurant which has received accolades for its food and for its cocktails. People come to 320 Main for delicious plates of Americana and refreshing glasses of well-balanced, hand-crafted beverages.

Lost in the shuffle of all of this, unfortunately, was the wine program.

It's interesting to think that 320, known for being at the forefront of good drinking in Orange County, could spend so much time working on a sophisticated and fun bar program, and then neglect the wine program. Of course, in any endeavor, energy put into one facet necessitates some negligence of another. Jason and Rebecca Schiffer both wanted to improve the wine program, but it just seemed “too big to get [our] arms around” while also perfecting cocktails and food.

Enter one George Pavlov.

320 Main's new white wine list.

Pavlov is one of Southern California's foremost wine experts. At the recommendation of Forrest Cokely from Hi Time Wine Cellars in Costa Mesa, George and Jason sat down at 320's bar one night. George raved about the great cocktails, but declared the wine list to be in poor shape, stating that if the cocktail program was Beethoven, the wine program was akin to Justin Bieber. Jason and Rebecca asked Pavlov to help elevate the wine program to the level of the cocktail program, and he agreed.

There were a few road bumps along the way. Pavlov is something of a Europhile when it comes to wines. He prefers the European styles of wine which tend to be lighter and even less expensive than the standard American faire. 320 tries to spotlight all things American, and the bar wanted to focus largely on American-made wines. Together, Jason and George set to work on crafting a wine list that focused on American wines made in a more European style: lighter flavors that are more refreshing and better to pair with food.

The final product of their efforts is a wine program that 320 Main can show off with pride. With the exception of a mere four wines from Europe, the entire wine list is comprised of American wines – all “unmolested” by the producer and all produced organically. Says Jason, “I'm very proud of our new wine program.”

Matt “RumDood” Robold is a bartender at 320 Main and, in his spare runs RumDood.com, where he writes about rum, rum cocktails, and rum history.