Steve Schul and Paul Zablocki (Cocktail Buzz) ply their love for cocktails, mixology, and food pairings on their Web site, Cocktail Buzz and their blog “Buzzings” with videos that offer demonstrations of cocktail/appetizer pairings, recipes for meals to follow your cocktail, as well as a reviews of cocktail bars and restaurants in NYC and other cities.
This year we decided to come to New Orleans a little early to enjoy the city before the Big Bang of Tales of the Cocktail 2009. Here are a few photos that capture our whereabouts a few days before and a few days into Tales. [Click on each to enlarge.]
Monday, July 6, 2009
Alan Walter makes terrific drinks at Iris, a restaurant in the French Quarter that boasts seasonal and sensational food. The Evangeline cocktail, redolent with the heady scent of purple basil, was not only visually stunning, it tasted like magic with flavors of galangal, lemongrass, and peach. Thanks, Alan, for taking the time to chat with us, and to Ryan, one of our waiters who just happened to be cooking up some amazing delights for us last year at Cochon. Ah, serendipity.
The Evangeline, created by Alan Walter, at Iris.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
After familiarizing ourselves with the French Quarter once again, we decided to stop in at Central Grocery, famous for inventing the muffuletta sandwich: Sicilian bread surrounding luscious layers of provolone, emmentaler, capicola, mortadella, and salami. But what sets this sandwich apart is the olive salad that is spread generously atop all the meats and cheeses. The Central Grocery muffuletta is crazy delicious and gigantic. We actually split a half sandwich and were satisfied for the rest of the afternoon. So bring an appetite and sit at the back counter and check out all the shelves lined with local hot sauces, pickled veggies, and other esoteric canned and bottled local grub.
Steve loves Muffuletta, at Central Grocery.
The ladies and gentlemen who blog for Tales of the Cocktail were fêted this year at the gorgeously appointed M.S. Rau Antiques, hosted by the affably delightful Martin Miller, founder of the eponymous gin. We sipped gin drink after gin drink (Sam Ross’s Palin’s Christmas Punch pleased the palette prodigiously, but the name made us wince just a bit . . . well, actually quite a bit), chatted with the wizardly developer David Bromige, and got a table-side demonstration of a cocktail shaker in the guise of an airplane [see photo below]. Next time you are in town, browse all the cocktailiana, drool, and hope that someday you win the lottery so you can be the proud owner of that shiny shaker.
Jim Cottrell says this airplane cocktail shaker can be yours for $32,000, at M.S. Rau Antiques. Thanks for the Blogger Reception, Martin Miller.
Many of the bloggers at Tales this year have started a group called CSOWG (Cocktail & Spirits Online Writers Group) and for several days preceding Tales, they gathered in a room in the French Quarter for a series of conferences called Drink.Write 2009. We attended the photography session and learned from speakers Jamie Boudreau (Spirits and Cocktails), Darcy S. O’Neil (Art of Drink), and Rick Stutz (Kaiser Penguin) about the ins and outs of taking pretty pictures of cocktails. All of the speakers have different approaches, and that is a good thing. Check out their sites and see how each of them has a distinct eye. Later that night, many of us let down our hair at the Mixoloseum (the CSOWG) House and sang and drank the night away. Thank you Gabriel and Joana Szaszko for inviting us to this party, complete with libation goddess Lynette Marrero and bartender Michael Martensen shaking and stirring our souls.
Gabriel Szaszko and Blair Reynolds sing for their sips, at the Mixoloseum House. Joana Szaszko and Paul sing “Summer Loving.” Lynette Marrero and Michael Martensen light up the party.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
A seminar titled “Responsible Beverage Program Consulting” sounded interesting to us, and we were happy to see our friend writer and creative cocktailian Danny Ronen on the panel with fellow mixologists Francesco Lafranconi, Kathy Casey (author of the new book Sips and Apps), and Jacques Bezuidenhout. All four had great chemistry and shared with us their concise and extremely helpful tips for consulting and developing cocktails and cocktail programs for bars of various sizes, agendas, and clientele. If you think your ginger-infused, hickory-smoked, small-batched cocktail with a garnish flown in from the Isle of Great Distance is going to cut it at every bar you consult for, well maybe you should have sat down and listened to them at this seminar. If you ever get a chance to talk with any of them, do bend their ears. You will learn a great deal.
Danny Ronen shows us a little respect at “Responsible Beverage Program Consulting,” with Francesco LaFranconi and Kathy Casey (Jacques Bezuidenhout not pictured).
We got some support this year from Paul’s cousins JoAnn and Barbara, and Barbara’s husband Jon, who flew down from New York to cheer us on at our Spirited Lunch with Bourbon House and Piedmont Distillers. And what better way to celebrate being all together in New Orleans than a visit to the exquisite Restaurant August, John Besh’s beauty of a dining room and bar. After a round of Sazeracs, we feasted on perfection, dish after dish of creative cuisine that satisfied all of our appetites. Chef Besh came out to say hello to us, and we were pleased as milk punch to see this dashing Merlin of the kitchen in the flesh, if but only for a few minute.
Steve and Paul’s cousin Barbara savor the fare at Restaurant August.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
What began as a morning fraught with nerves as we awaited our lemons and basil for some cocktails we developed for our Spirited Lunch with Piedmont Distillers and Bourbon House turned out to be quite a success, at least in our sleep-deprived eyes. A roomful of eager diners got to taste some traditional Southern food (mixed with a few surprises) paired with our cocktails. We even got to speak with the talented and gregarious Eric Asher of WIST AM 690 on his show broadcast live from Bourbon House. The moment our segment ended, we breathed a sigh of relief and thanked the exceptional kitchen and front-of-house staff for providing us with first-class top-notch support. Chef Darin Nesbit and event coordinator Wesley Noble, our hats off to you!
The bill of fare and the Second Course for “From Down-Home to Downtown: A Lunch Celebrating the Evolution of Southern Traditions,” at Bourbon House. Piedmont Distillers’ Sarah LeRoy and Joe Michalek, with Paul and Steve.
We love Cochon so much (we are huge fans of everything pig, including fried pig ears we got to try the other night), that we decided to give its upstairs private-party dining room Calcasieu a try. The two bar chefs, Eben Klemm and Eben Freeman came up with some tantalizing cocktails, including Earth, which used beet juice, and a Cornbread Old-Fashion, which tasted exactly as it sounds. Chef Warren Stephens’s Roasted Duck Breast with Duck Boudin and Figs was exceptional. We learned a lot about local culture and flavors from some of our table companions, who kept us in stitches throughout the evening.
Steve enjoys a Cornbread Old-Fashion, at Calcasieu’s Spirited Dinner.
Friday, July 10, 2009
Norman Bonchick, CEO of Van Gogh Imports, sat down with us in the Vieux Carré Room and told us a little bit about the new flavored vodkas his company was showcasing at Tales this year. We tried the Double Espresso Vodka and the sips brought instant smiles to our faces. Talk about coffee with a kick! Thanks, Norman, for providing some much needed nourishment for our tired and hungry souls.
A Van Gogh VodkaBreakfast, and a view from the Vieux Carré Room.
Tasting Rooms can be a lot of fun from a taster’s point of view. Getting the room ready and shaking up the cocktails can be a little nerve-wracking. But we thoroughly enjoyed working with director of marketing Sarah LeRoy and founder and president Joe Michalek of Piedmont Distillers to create four new cocktails for their Catdaddy and Midnight Moon moonshines. For an hour and a half, we muddled, shook, and poured our libations for the crowds and were pleased by the smiles we received. Thanks to our new friend Matt from Cochon who helped with the bartending and to Piedmont’s head of sales Joe Flock for sharing with us Piedmont’s new product, Lightning Lemonade.
Paul and Steve prep for Piedmont Distillers’ Tasting Room. Thank you, Lu Brow, for the succulent and spicy Catdaddy cherries.
After we said our good-byes to the nice folks from Piedmont Distillers, we took a light lunch at Green Goddess restaurant just around the corner from the Monteleone and sat in the drizzly rain. We felt cooled and comforted by the pitter-patter, looking forward to a day of rest. Stay tuned for a streetcar ride to Commander’s Palace and Robert Hess’s seminar limning the history of the Old Fashioned.
“After the Rain”
The view outside The Green Goddess restaurant after a busy two days and a little rain shower.