Wine & Mixology: Fried (Molecular) Pairings, Personnel, and the Adolescent Intoxication-Preoccupation

Wine & Mixology: Fried (Molecular) Pairings, Personnel, and the Adolescent Intoxication-Preoccupation

How to Build a Winning Wine Team

Steve Olson moderates How to Build a Winning Wine Team in the Tasting Room

Steve Olson moderates "How to Build a Winning Wine Team" in the Tasting Room

Hiring and retaining a winning wine team is a challenge for the best of sommeliers. How do you hire the right people and how do you motivate them once you have them? These were just two of the quandaries that a panel of the country’s top wine directors (including Bernie Sun of Jean-Georges Management, John Ragan of Eleven Madison Park and Belinda Chang, of The Monkey Bar) addressed. Steve Olson moderated the panel, sharing his own key elements of a successful wine program. They all had different approaches. For Olson, making the chef the star was the key. For Ragan, passion was the secret ingredient in new staff: “We don´t hire skills. You can’t teach people to love what they do.” Chang emphasized that the wine staff were just part of the team, and Sun prioritized being a supportive supervisor. “You need to give them every opportunity to succeed,” he said. Olson kept the audience laughing. “I just heard myself referred to as the older gentleman. It was the gentleman part that really threw me.”

It Gets Better with (Barrel) Age

Naren Young leads his Barrel-aged Cocktails Mixology Workshop

Naren Young leads his Barrel-aged Cocktails Mixology Workshop

Baby-faced Mixologist Naren Young (fresh from co-presenting with Jeffrey Morgenthaler at Tales of the Cocktail) might not be the obvious choice for a session on aging, but this aged cocktail workshop helped mixo participants navigate through the plethora of techniques for aging cocktails. Young's Improved Holland Cocktail, Negroni, and Brooklyn Cocktails went through a variety of iterations in the workshop (some barrel-aged in whisky barrels from Tuthilltown Spirits, some rapid-infused using an iSi whipper, and others processed sous vide and bottle-aged with charred wooden staves). Distiller Gable Erenzo from Tuthilltown Spirits was on hand to offer insight into how his whisky barrels are used for barrel-aged spirits. Young also guided the audience through the history of aged cocktails. He explained how Prohibition represented the death of barrel-aged cocktails, as skilled bartenders often took off for Europe to make their living once Prohibition hit. Looks like barrel-aged cocktails are ripe for revival now.

Cocktails Experienced Through the Meta-Sense of Time

Mixologist Troy Sidle shakes up a cocktail at Alchemy Consulting's Mixology Workshop "Cocktails Experienced Through the Meta Sense of Time"

Mixologist Troy Sidle shakes up a cocktail at Alchemy Consulting's Mixology Workshop "Cocktails Experienced Through the Meta Sense of Time"

Never has a mixology seminar had such an intimidating title, and such approachably educating stars. Attendees might have thought they were walking into a metaphysical contemplation of the experience of, say, a whisky sour. But we were all delightfully surprised by the trio at Alchemy Consulting—Toby Maloney, Troy Sidle, and Joaquín Simó—who cheerfully led us through a timeline of spirits appreciation that ran from the pimply adolescent intoxication-preoccupation to an adult—and seemingly toxic—fascination with bitter compounds. Cocktails ranged from the nostalgic orange-bark-vanilla, holiday savor of the Tattooed Seamen (which some customers can’t say without giggling) to an unbelievably light gateway to Scotch, and, presumably, adulthood (credulity was further challenged when we learned it was peat monster Laphroiag). The happy crowd was temporarily grumpified with a straight shot of wormwood liqueur—“the liquid essence of bitter,” as Sidle put it. (Maloney said it reminded him of a pile of burning tires.) But apologies followed in the form of light, balanced Whisky Slings, and deeper conversation among attendees and the trio—whose mission, it seems, is to teach drinkers to appreciate what’s in the glass—and savor, if also eventually rectify—the bizarre motivations that drive us to it from decade to decade.

Taste Buds and Molecules: Innovative Aromatic Food Pairings

Francois Chartier shares his pairing science at Tastebuds and Molecules in the Tasting Room

Francois Chartier shares his pairing science at Tastebuds and Molecules in the Tasting Room

François Chartier started his seminar by invoking the great Jimi Hendrix—explaining how in the last years of his life, the iconic musician started studying the science of music, changing his outlook and giving his last album a noticeably different sound from his earlier work. Similarly Chartier became curious about the science of food, and set out in 2002 to study the how and why of what foods, tastes, aromas and wine work together. As a sommelier he knew that anything with black olives always went with Syrah, and that anything with mint became better with Sauvignon Blanc. But why? Molecules would be the answer.

Years later, after a slew of b-ionones, pyrazines, and lactones in the nose and on the tongue, he arrived at some answers, explained in his ground-breaking book Papilles et Molecues, or Taste Buds and Molecules which arrives stateside in February 2012. The answer is families of molecules, which produce aroma and taste. For example, B-ionones are present in cherries, violets, plums, tobacco, and raspberries. Sounds like a wine, right? Now we can understand why those tastes go together. Algae also contains b-ionones, and during the today’s tasting Chartier served a nori-wrapped raspberry gelée, which sounds insane but was insanely good.

This new approach to pairings, and to understanding wine, is opening a whole world of gastronomy before us, with Chartier leading the charge. His love of sharing this knowledge is obvious, and he promises many more books are on the way.

Fizzy and Fried

Lisa Dupar and Laura Maniec talk Fizzy and Fried in the Tasting Room

Lisa Dupar and Laura Maniec talk Fizzy and Fried in the Tasting Room

If you only remember one thing about drinking bubbly, drink it every day! So began Laura Maniec, Master Sommelier, as she explained the infinite pairings that are possible with champagne and sparkling wine. Chef Lisa Dupar reinforced this idea, preparing comfort food with smart, elegant flair. The first bite from DuPar’s Pomegranate Bistro staff was Fried Chicken Poppers with Hot Sticky Kumquat Sauce. Maniec paired this with a prosecco from Primaterra, and explained that it was bright and clean, a fresh contrast to the fried chicken flavor. She also suggested trying Jose Dhondt’s Blanc de Blanc champagne to experience a rich unctuous champagne with the full-bodied flavor of the chicken.

The next fizzy wine was a Blanquette de Limoux, a rustic “methode ancestrale” sparkler from the south of France. This complemented DuPar’s Pink Oregon Shrimp Corn Fritter, which featured shrimp and corn from Oregon, where it’s at its ripest of the season. This ripeness is almost perceived as sweet, and married well with the dry finish on Gilles Louvet old-school bubbles.

Mini Corn Dogs with Cilantro Mustard brought up the finish, and Maniec served a Brut Champagne from Fleury in Aube. Another style of Champagne, due to it’s location closer to Chablis than Champagne, it had a slightly oxidized style which reminded Dupar of sherry. Maniec described hints of sassafrass and creamsicles, flavors that enhanced the herbs and sausage—just what a sparkling wine will do with almost any dish. Try this at home. They insist.

By Emily Bell, Francoise Villeneuve, and Jeff Harding