This post could easily turn into a full chapter in my book. (The book that I keep writing in my head.) As so poignantly expressed recently by my friend, writer-critiquer (haha..3..2..1..), and the general manager of our moonstones restaurant, the mere nature of employees in our industry is “different.” (For clarity sake, Peg’s point was that we are prone to many a character trait: drama, wherewithal, confidence; as these are necessary to successfully deal with the shit we do–including “you people”!) (Peg…colon precedes the list, but semi separates the closing but independant statement?)
But, this is not for the book…yet. (And let me point out that although I may be lazy at times, like in the previous post, where you-the reader may be hankering for “more”, this is a blog. I am told time and again, that blogs are supposed to be short…and frequent..and both of those criteria challenge me to no end. So when I do not elaborate, it is because I have made my most significant and relevant point of the day, and I have moved on. You want more? Buy the book! (Eventually)
So back to the point! We had a Bar Stars competition on Sunday night to kickoff Restaurant Showcase week (8/18-9/11) Nine restaurants sending their best bartender to compete “Iron Chef” style, with a panel of Judges to rate on originality, use of ingredients, presentation, flavor and some other criteria…25 points being a perfect score. (Very funny side note-? ;? The ONE restaurant that reserved a spot in the competition but pulled a no show is called…RESERVATIONS. Seriously, they never showed. Is that awesome. I don’t make this shit up!) (And when they are no longer in business in a year from now, I will write a lengthy blog about why. Stay tuned.)
Back to my brave bartenders!
Kim Mello. The bar manager of our two restaurants, and BAR none (sorry, had to) is the most knowledgeable, and best bartender around here. When you add bartender points altogether–in my own scorecard anyway–there’s none better. (Honest. Creative. Fast. Pleasant. Strong. Accurate. Presentation aware. Schooled. The list goes on.)
As Kim and I discussed what she might do for the competition as she represented COBBLESTONES, she mentioned trying to use fresh herbs. (It’s that time of year in New England) She discussed using both sponsor products together: Hammer and Sickle Vodka and Sam Adams beer. She discussed using Elderflower liquer and bitters. My response to Kim?
“It is not likely that you win with that flavor profile.” ”Judges” often will rate highest based simply on flavor, not creativity and uniqueness and their palates will trend towards something sweet. ”Just be forewarned. They are not REAL industry people.”
Kim’s awesome response to my response? ”Of course I want to win, but aren’t we all about being unique and different. We don’t do what everybody else does. That’s what makes us who we are.”
(Or, she said something very close to that. I may have put it into more of a Disney-esque “us against the world” perspective.)
Kim’s drink was beautiful. Golden hued, she chose a tall pilsner glass that added drama, while creating a light-passes-through-the-ice sort of a glowing rock candy-ish presentation. Shaved ginger, atop a cucumber raft, 1/2 way up on a tall clear pick, rose well above the top of the drink, centered, creating a well conceived, carefully placed symmetry in the already tall and slim appearance. And it was delicious. And it nodded to both generous sponsors, a point that I am sure we mistakenly allowed to go largely unnoticed. (The MC had become a tad tipsy and was relegated to the sidelines!)
No one there but Kim had the vision or gumption to create a beer based cocktail. Way too NYC.
Kim did not win. She cheered and smiled as 1st place went to Owen and Ollies of Dracut, who brought a team of cheer-leaders, enthusiasm and a plan. Their bartender won with a Hammer and Sickle based Cosmopolitan variant–a delicious, yet ubiquitous drink featuring raspberry, lemon and cranberry. It was a beautiful garnet colored mix, with a sugared rim.
It was a great time for all, and to Kim, I award 1st prize for remaining brave enough to stay true to the stated goal of the day, and to herself. She dared to compete with a challenging flavor profile, and to me…that’s sweet enough!
We are likewise very proud of the 2nd place winner, our own Meg Welch who represented moonstones. Meg rebuked our suggestion to stick with a comfortable, known, unique menu drink profile, something too, that we felt had a chance of winning. She chose instead to try her own blend, playing off of a Bellini recipe. Meg’s drink was delicious too, and Meg, like Kim, stayed true to the goal of creativity and courage in the face of pressure, offering the panel a drink that had never been made before. BOTH were/are awesome.
(In another funny side note, I will not name the bartender who actually showed up with a drink that had been made at her restaurant. Judges ruling? She will have to mix a drink in front of the crowd like all other bartenders! Good stuff)
And…the restaurant week official cocktail is… The Hammer-politan! Or something like that… Please be sure to visit all participating restaurants, and be sure to show up if you make reservations! :)