Saturday, October 6, 2012

Adios Amigos!


It’s time for me to embark on a little adventure.  I am certainly open to a big adventure, just packed into nine days.  Travel is something that moves my soul.  It feeds an inner curiosity and recharges my batteries in a way I have been hard pressed to find by any other means.  I have been to only eight countries outside of the United States and some part of me yearns to see them all. 

Mid October my curiosities will take me to Spain joining one of my bestest friends on a romp through the northern country.  I have never been and have only the tales of others to tease and feed my wanderlust. 

My intentions are simple: keep my ears, eyes, and heart open to the authentic pulse of Spain.  I envision drinking a lot, laughing a lot, listening a lot, and talking a lot.  I want to come home with new bar ideas, friends and experiences I can relish for a lifetime.

Blog posts to resume upon my return…

Monday, October 1, 2012

Penny Profiler #50


Joanie Parsons. A dozen (maybe more) years ago our paths crossed via an ex-boyfriend of hers that I met on Match.  Needless to say a few chuckles have been shared over the irony.  This PR entrepreneur has taught me the finer points of elevator pitches, sustainability, turtles, and medicine cards.  She is a spirited lover of nature, animals, world travels, and eating your veggies. 

We were lucky enough to share a fence for several years and while I’m excited for the direction our lives took, I do miss the good old days.  Her fridge was known to have every known condiment on the planet. 

Our penny exchange came recently when I went to visit her downtown dwelling.  She’s officially given up the backyard and landscape for a cityscape complete with a knowledgeable doorman.  I’m officially envious.  

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Penny Profiler #49


Sarah Reker.  Have you ever heard of the artist Pimp Rekker?  There is no known relation but there is a correlation.  Sarah is a master mixer of media and marketing in such a rhythmic and funky fashion that could challenge the stylistic beats of the aforementioned Pimp.  Check it out for yourself at www.designwineandfood.com 

I have had the great pleasure of getting to know this amazing woman as her passions in food and wine undoubtedly collided with mine in Post Alley.  And hers, leading to a wonderful career assisting industry members with their digital sea legs. 

We break bread and drink wine when busy schedules permit and often fantasize about getting friend together for travels far away to sip the indigenous beverages, sample the nosh and meet the locals.  I’ll have to start saving more than just pennies.  Thanks to her penny saving efforts though, I’ll have her sweet mojo within the walls of Brimmer someday.  

Monday, September 24, 2012

Local Inspirations (Part VI)


Local Inspirations (Part VI)
I do like to cook but I LOVE to go out.  Often my to-do list is filled with places that I haven’t been to but my inspirations are mostly drawn from are those who have been at it for a little or a long while, as below. 

Maneki: Is my favorite traditional Japanese restaurant located in the heart of the International District that has been in Seattle for more than 100 years.  As quoted by Nancy Leson from the Seattle Times reflecting on their extensive customer base: ” That's what happens when a restaurant withstands two World Wars, Japanese internment, a move, the distinction of having a former dishwasher go on to become the 66th prime minister of Japan and — amazingly enough — only a handful of ownership changes in a century.”  Impressive hardly describes it.

Beloved dish: anything from their daily specials and Ankimo (Monkfish liver) if I’m lucky
Special detail: Private Tatami rooms for 4-10 people
Favorite server:  I’m not sure if she is still bartending part time but it is the best treat if Fusae Yokoyama, aka "Okasan" or "Mom" is behind the bar
Delicious drink: sake!

……………….

Spinasse: Since opening in 2008, this little Italian joint has caught the attention of those seeking salvation in Piedmontese cuisine.  Chef Jason Stratton and his team create daily fresh staples that are beautiful simple yet refined and word has it from those in the know… authentic.

Beloved dish: I would eat every single one of his pasta dishes every single day of my life for the rest of my life if my heart and hips could take it.
Special detail: sit at the counter, the pasta equivalent of the sushi counter
Delicious drink: I’m a sucker for their Dolcetto collection

Friday, September 21, 2012

Penny Profiler #48


Ashlyn Forshner.  House sitting for a stranger is an unusual way to get acquainted with someone but it worked.  Our homes tell a lot about us and hers screamed a love of animals, food, gardens and music.  Thank goodness I have been able to dig deeper as her travels returned her to Seattle.  Southern roots give her a sweet side like “bless your heart”, while her life path lends a sort of Bette Davis attitude. 

If you’re lucky enough to rent a room from her VRBO property (http://www.vrbo.com/428475) you’ll be treated to a dreamy piece of land complete with her Southern hospitality, homemade tea foraged from her property, fresh flowers, and the most delicious home cooked breakfast a girl could ever ask for.

In true Ashlyn fashion, her pennies don’t fit in with the rest.  She brought hers back from a month long excursion to France.  Dis-moi à quoi tu penses, et je te donnerai 20 sous.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Strategies Seminar


I recently attended a complementary seminar on Strategies for Increasing Restaurant Sales in the South Lake Union neighborhood.  In partnership with the Office of Economic Development and the Community Capital Development a panel of industry experts gathered to discuss analyzing operations, opportunities to improve sales, customer loyalty, promotions and branding.  Collectively the speakers had decades of experience and shared their perspective on how to gain an edge in this competitive market.   

Overall I thought it was a quite an informative session with a variety of attendees ranging from small coffee shop owners, a baker wanting to expand her wholesale kitchen, an international hotel chain looking for ideas in their restaurant operations as it pertained to the Seattle market, and so on.  One thing is clear; there is no cookie cutter solution to any problem.  If we are open to looking at things from a different perspective, there are plenty of tools at our fingertips.  

Monday, September 17, 2012

Penny Profiler #47


Andrew Peate.  A man of many words and a few pennies in his pocket when we last visited.  He has a youthful shell but an old cantankerous male interior, both of which are marinated in old soul.  He is from these parts originally but his genius musical prowess landed him a scholarship to the Manhattan School of Music.  Naturally gifted in rhythm, this background in music helped to guide his contemporary work in writing.   Now with a few screenplays under his belt and hoping to be discovered, I know it’s just a matter of time before the whole world sees what a talented savant is in the wings.  

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Draughts aren’t just for beer!


Most drinkers (myself included) froth at the mouth over a perfectly poured beer, the beautiful head and anticipatory aromas of flavors waiting.  And now debuting all over the country, restaurants and bars are offering cocktails, shots, and wine served on tap, just like beer. Cooks, bartenders, and most importantly the patrons seem to be gushing about its brutal efficiency and consistency. 

From my vantage point the benefits to a bar program include:
  • Ease of service (it takes only a few seconds to deliver)
  • Consistency of the drink
  • Novelty of the experience
  • Pouring a taste to allow a guest to preview
  • Reducing the amount of cans, bottles, cups, and other components necessary to make a custom cocktail, equals a significant reduction in waste
  • Endorsement the establishment is giving the patron… we like this cocktail so much, we made a 100 liters of it!
  • Preservation of wine vs. random open bottles

Maintenance seems to mirror the upkeep of draft systems for beer with only a few exceptions, and the kegged cocktails/wine can retain a high quality for weeks.  Putting additional beverages on tap can make work easier for bartenders, but the kegs with cocktails do require occasional shaking to prevent ingredients from separating.

The legitimate cons for me seem to be centered around the technical aspects like matters of oxidation or setting up the proper equipment.  Other downfalls are that kegs can also make it more likely to lose ounces of the cocktails, which can add up over time, due to over-pouring, samples and self service.

Some talk however seems to be about the culture of drinking and the customer experience. In an age of perfecting the perfect cocktail and charging for it, are we undoing the notion that a great cocktail takes time?  That very ritual, watching a drink come together, constructed one element at a time. I can imagine myself missing that—if an establishment didn’t also serve traditional cocktails.  What are the perceptions if the bartender doesn’t have to do anything other than pour it? 

Timing is everything right?  So on Tuesday when the bar isn’t crowded, maybe I’ll go for the elaborate multi-ingredient, double strained, layered cocktail.  On Saturday when it’s 3 deep at the bar and I want a beverage, that fizzy Negroni served at the same price as the rest of the cocktails with a bigger pour is sounding pretty damn tasty.  

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Penny Profiler #46


BJ Shannon.  For a man with east coast roots and that moved to Seattle (relatively) recently, he knows everyone, or perhaps everyone knows him.  You’ll find him at the newest rock show, at random dive bars, or the latest trendy restaurant. He’s one fine world traveler and experience collector.

I have been a huge fan of his (and the entire Shannon clan) since our paths crossed many moons ago.  His penny investment assures me his mojo will be in the house when Brimmer & Heeltap finally opens and I’ll do my best to get his butt in a seat with some sort of regularity!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

In Memory of sweet Yancy Noll



It is with a very heavy heart that I say farewell to a beloved friend and colleague.  His life was tragically taken too early and rather than sink into the doldrums surrounding his murder, I want to honor this vivacious, hilarious, confident, smart, and passionate friend. 

Our paths first crossed (sometime in the late 90’s) when I picked up weekend shifts at Esquin Wine Merchants while I was working for the Washington Wine Commission.  Our foundation was gelled with an instant brotherly/sisterly bond and he watched my back, guided me in what to do and what not to do.  We frequently shared belly laughs (and those who knew him can attest to his infectious laugh), Indian food, amazing beer and wine.  It became quite evident that I would need to practice saying no and meaning it when Yancy would come to me on a regular basis proclaiming “OMG, Jen, you’ve got to get this wine.  This shit is amazing!” His philosophy was to buy 3, 6 or 12 bottles of a wine you really liked.  Drink one immediately and the others in some sort of aged procession based on the quantity purchased.   

Fast forward and countless speeches under his belt of how I needed to buy this one or that one.  One day he had come to me with the same old story and I replied with something to the effect of “Zip it!  I’m not falling for this Yancy.  I need to save money”.  His retort was “you’re making the biggest mistake of your life.  You WILL regret not buying this wine and I won’t share any if you don’t get at least one bottle.”  We both laughed and laughed because I finally stepped into the big leagues this time and purchased three bottles.  Weeks later, like ‘em or not, the Wine Spectator came out and named this one of the top three wines in the world. 

Well as luck would have it, I still have a bottle in the cellar.  In the coming weeks a friend has organized a few industry colleagues to gather for a little tribute and bring a special bottle to honor our dear friend.  I know what I’ll be pouring.  You can bet your bottom dollar that I will toast my spirited cohort and recall many fond stories as I relish in how precious our time really is.  

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Penny Profiler #45




Jennifer or Jen, but definitely not Jenny, Miller. I also owe a shout out to the fabulous men in her corner, Andrew, Mitch, and Austin. I have known Jen almost my entire life.  Her family moved in when we were just babies.  Today I have seen her babies grow up and we’ve played witness to just about every high & low in each others lives.  There are a myriad of inside jokes and nostalgic tales of yesteryear.  We have countless embarrassing moments documented in the mind’s eye, maybe even a few on film.  Our history might read like a Judy Blume and Huck Finn novel combined.  This penny installation would not be complete without a few anchors in my life and Jen is among them. Now if only we were neighbors and could go play Sardines or Truth or Dare for old time sake!    

Friday, September 7, 2012

One man’s trash is another woman’s treasure…



I am the proud new mama of a few sets of seats from the old Fort Gamble Theater.   Maybe they’ll be part of a large dining table or booth?  I love that they are adorned with a few graffiti marks from lovers of yesteryear (or maybe still today)?  KH + BE or Cane + CJ.  Some of them still have gum on their underside.  Ew!

The historic Port Gamble Theater was build during the boom times of this Pacific Northwest Victorian mill town near the turn of the last century.  Used for community theater, vaudeville and eventually a movie house.  It was vacant and in a preserved state since 1956, when the last movie reel ended.  History seeps from this space and I feel SO fortunate to have secured a few pieces of historic remnants.  

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Penny Profiler #44


Karin & Kevin Schminke.  What do you get when you cross a talented artist (http://www.schminke.com/) with a clever and witty professor?  A darling couple that I am lucky to call friends! 

For the sake of this post, I’ll call Kevin ‘a collector’.  (Karin might call him something that resembles a person that doesn’t want to throw anything away.)  The history is bleak behind the impressive collection of coins deposited into the proverbial piggy bank.  Kevin’s best guess was they’ve been in storage and collected from the days when they moved in their Kenmore home 18 years ago!

Kevin is clearly a professor – I explained that I counted them as I received them so I had an idea of how many square feet I was working with.  He appropriately schooled me on how to expedite the process, “it’s simple” he said, “just weigh them.”  Well I took his advice and 173 pennies = 1 lb.  Where was he for the 43 other counting’s?

Monday, September 3, 2012

Penny Profiler #43




Julia & Casey Selfridge.  Absolut-ly priceless.  I first crossed paths with Casey while I was training for the London Marathon. At that time, he was a wonderful coach for the Team in Training organization (also known by the acronym TNT, is the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's endurance sports training program. They provide training for a half marathon, marathon, triathlon, century bike ride, or a cross-country ski marathon.)  For more info check out http://www.teamintraining.org/

Never look a gift horse in the mouth right?  Ha.  After shaking the vodka bottle for what felt like an eternity to retrieve these little coins, I contemplated whether it would be worthwhile to clean up broken glass or continue shaking the bottle until every last drop was out?  Fact: the neck of an Absolut bottle isn’t much bigger than a penny and the bottle can store at least 1230 pennies.

As for the pennies themselves, Casey is quite certain he”scored the bottle from a new year’s party freshman year in college.”  The bottle was filled by or before he graduated and he never knew what to do with them so they have been a highly ornate bookend for the better part of the last decade.  Casey and his wife (especially) are glad they have found a new home.  

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Local Inspirations (Part V)


It has been a little while since I last visited the topic of where I head for local inspiration.  Two recent outings instigated this post.

……………….

Belle Clementine: I think my first introduction was when I noticed a foodie friend check in on Facebook.  I had never heard of this place so I googled it and then added it to my restaurant to-do list.  It’s a never ending list btw with 73 destinations and counting.  Fast forward to my business partner and I having occasional discussions on the merits of communal dining, she spots a mention in the Seattle Times, and presto we have reservations.  We loved it. Our family style menu is included below and for $40 per person (inclusive of a glass of wine or beer AND gratuity)… I’d say this is the best foodie deal in town!

Canapé of herbed fromage blanc and house-cured gravlax
Lentil soup with pickled peppers and creme fraiche
Braised Stokesberry rabbit, raddichio, corn & chanterelles with aged balsamic
Rice salad with herbs and greens
"Cookies and Cream"

Beloved dish:  the rabbit, raddichio salad was to die for but the menu changes daily
Special detail: Owner/chef, David Sanford, invites you to join him in the kitchen as your meal is being prepared
Delicious drink: modestly appointed wine list with an abundance of tasty options
……………….

The Dray: For the love of beer!  This tiny and by tiny I mean less than 1000 square feet. Most of the local studio apartments are bigger.  But what it lacks in size it makes up in quality beers, snacks and locals hanging out there daily. 

Beloved dish: I really love their sandwich melts but my favorite is the extra-sharp white cheddar and turmeric pepper pickle relish on rustic whole wheat bread.
Special detail: dog friendly
Favorite server: Nico
Delicious drink: an easy dozen specialty beers on draught and a list of more than 80 in the bottle with show stoppers like Russian River’s Pliny the Elder (on tap as of last night) available.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Penny Profiler #42

For some reason the iphone flips all images!  


Erik Andrew.  His artwork was the medium for our friendship blossoming nearly a decade ago.  You can find his work at http://erikandrew.com/ and in a few hot spots around Seattle.  This gentle and talented, shy at times, man is a self taught artist whose genuine persona will warm your heart. 

Buyer beware: once you crack that sweet shell, the hilarious and spirited side will rear its lively little head.  He has participated in some memorable debaucheries (thank god no photos exist of either of us) and provided me with wheels on more than one occasion when my car wasn’t worthy.  (Reference photo above – a ride came complete with pennies)

I am proud to have his art hanging on my wall and seeing sweet reminders of my dear friend every day.  

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Penny Profiler #41



Stewart & Jody Todd.  They were acknowledged in an earlier post for generously sharing an 1875 Madeira.  If that weren’t enough, I’ve got pennies added to the collection from this sweet duo.  Before taking a new job at Amazon, Stewart had generously put a collection box in his office for anyone to dump their extra pennies into.  

Although we’re practically neighbors, I’m quite certain that our paths originally crossed over shared interest in alcohol and likely at The Tasting Room.  Like so many others mentioned in these posts, Post Alley served my social life well.  While Stewart’s profession is geared toward the technical, there is a softer side with his poem of the month posts: http://www.stewarttodd.com/category/wine/

Friday, August 24, 2012

S.C.O.R.E


I mentioned this organization in the previous post of gratitude to my coach, mentor, counselor, and friend that has helped get this business off the ground. I realized that SCORE deserved its own post.

Refresher: Originally the acronym for “Service Core of Retired Executives” is now “Counselors to America's Small Business”).  Any business that is just getting started or any business that would like to improve upon its current standings should look into this outreach program at http://seattle.score.org/

They do not receive a single dime (or penny) for their time.  Classes are offered at a modest fee.  For example, I recently attended a half day seminar on Financial Statement Analysis for only $40.  It was worth every cent and minute of my time.

If you have an existing business that you want to grow, SCORE is for you.  If you have a business that you want to launch, SCORE is for you.   There is a pay-it-forward mentality in their offices that can’t help but ignite and encourage the growth of ANY business.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Penny Profiler #40


Ed Milan.  An acquaintance introduced us when I mentioned actually getting this bar off the ground.  Ed is a volunteer with an organization under the SBA (Small Business Administration) called SCORE (Originally the acronym for “Service Core of Retired Executives”, is now “Counselors to America's Small Business”).  Any business that is just getting started or any business that would like to improve upon its current standings should look into this outreach program at http://seattle.score.org/  Ed has coached from the outer reaches of the east coast and now Seattle is lucky enough to have him call her home.  He has coached at least 529 businesses owners in Seattle alone.  To say that I adore Ed would be an understatement.  He is the best coach, mentor, and friend a kid could ever ask for!  Grey Goose will be waiting fine sir!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Recommended Reading?



The stack of books around my house these days don’t quite measure up to the Harlequin summer romance spin for an easy reading line-up.

I have been looking at everything from design and layout features, management components, financial formulas, human resources, and much more. 

Nerves have kicked in like the old school days prior to test time. It feels like last minute crunching and studying for the big exam, only this time it’s an open book final. I know that I’ll be tested in more ways than I can count and all the rote knowledge in the world won’t help me in the practical tests.  My nerves are comforted by the resources available now, during, and after the fat lady sings.

Now where did I put that 50 Shades of Grey book?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Penny Profiler #39



Cynthia Nims & Bob Burns.  And honorable mentions to the late Marian Jane Nims along with Cynthia & Bob’s brunch guests that also threw in their two cents (or more).  I am not exactly sure how I managed to cross paths with these two lovely people.  I’d imagine it was somehow related to wine and food, a repetitive theme in my life.  Cynthia is a talented writer and has published some very worthy cookbooks.  Among my favorite are the Homegrown Cookbook Series, Gourmet Game Night, and her most recent, Salty Snacks.  You can find others at http://www.cynthianims.com

Cynthia & Bob hosted a summer brunch that I was lucky enough to attend.  The spread of food and drink was impressive and it was a delight to cross paths with so many new people.  At the end of the party they sent me home with fresh Yakima Valley cherries and pennies - some they’d personally collected, some from the party goers and some they’d salvaged from cleaning out Cynthia's late mother’s home.  The history behind them is vague but it is comforting to know that Marian liked to collect things.  In her home it would be common to have an assortment of dishes collecting things she was fond of.  My home is like that too and I wish that I could have known her mom.  For now, I’ll take comfort in having a few pennies she touched and coveted for some reason.  

Monday, August 13, 2012

Ragnar?



Ragnar was a 9th century Norse King.  He was also known to be a pirate, raider, conqueror, explorer and overall wild man. Fast forward to modern times and Ragnar is a national relay race that perhaps draws upon the tough, fearless, rugged attributes of this King. 

It is an overnight, running relay that makes testing limits a team sport.  (Check it out for yourself at http://www.ragnarrelay.com/) A team is made up of 6-12 individuals; each running 3 legs.  The legs of the race vary in difficulty and distance, allowing the elite and novice to run together.  Over 2 days and 1 night, teams run across 200 miles of the country’s most scenic terrain.  Pair that with crazy costumes, inside jokes, and a memorable finish line party.  Some call it a slumber party without sleep, pillows, or deodorant. 
Late last month I completed the Northwest Passage with an amazing team of 4 other women and 1 courageous guy.

The race reiterated that while our individual work is critical, the purpose of partnership is to create something greater than we can create alone. Not because of any deficiency or incompleteness, but because each of us are unique, with our own talents and special abilities. In partnership we increase the efforts and talents available for creating something meaningful because we have harnessed the power of union. 

While I look ahead to our future crew at B&H, I take comfort in the skills and abilities we will each bring to the table and look forward to realizing what we can accomplish together.

Long live the Ragnar in all of us!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Penny Profiler #38


Kalindi and Jonathan Thompson.  Kalindi and I met awhile back when we were preparing for the London Marathon.  Our training later expanded into our hearts and souls at weekend workshops, mentioned in earlier posts.  Certainly a great base for a lasting friendship! 

A few years ago I was thrilled to be asked to officiate their wedding.  Melding two lives, a few religions, and several families was an absolute honor, to say the least.  Kalindi’s father gave them a container of coins at their wedding with a sweet dedication.  My dear friends decided that the pennies were worthy of re-gifting to my project and all 14 lbs. of them rode shotgun from San Carlos to Seattle on a recent road trip.

Once again, I am humbled by all of my friend’s sweet, sweet gestures and look forward to this floor’s construction.  I will be such a blubbering fool for its official unveiling.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Edit, Review, Repeat


A business plan is an exercise that banks require for those seeking funding.  It is a worthwhile and laborious process fueled by a lot of questions about intent, budget, market strategy, philosophy, and much, much more.

Currently we have 23 pages that specifically outline the following:

  • ·         Mission, Vision and Purpose Statement
  • ·         Executive Summary and Business Description
  • ·         Company Ownership
  • ·         Start-Up Summary
  • ·         Industry Analysis
  • ·         Market Location and Customer Demographics
  • ·         Competitors
  • ·         Operations and Management Plan
  • ·         Menu and Beverage Program
  • ·         Financial Summary
  • ·         Professional History
  • ·         Industry Endorsements
  • ·         Press Clippings


Each section is scrutinized and analyzed for accuracy, logic and sage business decisions.  The irony is that the data is mostly hypothetical.  Collectively we’ll apply all of the lessons we’ve learned in our previous roles but until this project is live, who knows how much of the plan will be used or whether we came close to the targets. 

We’re in final edits now and the next steps are to shop it around to various banks/lenders for pre-approval discussions.  They will also be testing us on the 4 “C’s”… Capable, Credit, Collateral, and Cash. 

More to report on soon.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Penny Profiler #37


Jerome & Ellie Fisher.  Oh the joys of lifelong family friends.  My dad grew up with Ellie in Ellensburg.  I’m quite positive that she’ll gladly admit she is a few years his junior.  Ellensburg was and still is a small town.  Census reports the population back then to be a little over 8,000 (circa 1950) and today it’s just over 18,000.  As a result of growing up in that small town and keeping some lifelong friends, my folks have come to share in some lasting memories with some great people and the Fishers are among them.  Embarrassing stories aside, I have to say, that while nostalgia is sweet, so is the notion that we’re afforded these sweet connections with these people through my adult perspective.  It will give me great joy to have people who saw me grow up sitting among the patrons at Brimmer & Heeltap.  At least, now I can’t get into trouble for talking to strangers.  

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Penny Profiler #36


Stronk Clan. My mother’s sister and family live about 3.5 hours south of here in the beautiful community called West Linn.  Some of my fondest childhood memories involved road trips to spend time at their lovely riverfront home.  The Willamette River taught me at an early age that if something was bothering me, I could only hang on to it for as long as it was in my sight.  Once the river’s current took it downstream and around the bend, it wasn’t mine to hang onto anymore.  While I don’t always practice this, I hope I can recount this valuable lesson when the doors open. 

My aunt and uncle have always been staunch supporters of both my education and career.  Hopefully this new endeavor will make them all proud.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Penny Profiler #35


Joy Bryngleson.  A wedding in Mexico introduced this friendship and her namesake hasn’t disappointed.  As the definition suggests:

joy (joi)
n.

1 (a)  Intense and especially ecstatic or exultant happiness
   (b) The expression or manifestation of such feeling
2       an outward show of pleasure or delight: rejoicing

She’s the first one to dance with strangers, chat up the grocery clerk, travel the globe solo and meet friends as she goes.  I can only hope B&H has a fraction of the joy that Joy emulates!  Her penny delivery was no exception.  They arrived in recycled jars from the kitchen and my favorite was the picante sauce can.  The pennies smelled spicy.  Not a surprise given the deliverer.  I think her new nickname should be Joy+ Spicy = Joycy.  

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Penny Profiler #34



Victoria Trimmer.  This was my first (and only, to date) delivery of pennies that arrived via Priority Mail.  You can imagine the smile on my face when I picked up the box to hear its sweet musical jingle.  I immediately knew what kind of present arrived.  The thoughtful note was too good not to share. 

“In for a penny, in for a pound. If you are going to take a risk at all, might as well make it a big risk.” Once involved, one must not stop at half measures!  This term originally meant that if one owes a penny one might as well owe a pound, and came into American use without changing the British monetary unit to dollar.  

I crossed paths with Victoria when I was a mere intern, starting out in the industry more than 15 years ago.  She is a woman I often look up to with a sustained passion in all things family, wine, food, community, fishing, travel, and then some.  

Sunday, July 29, 2012

What about the food?


From the inception I knew that I wanted fun, bold flavors, new spins on old classics, new spins on new spins, and overall to offer amazing quality food at reasonable prices.  I had my eyes set on only one chef.  Some of my colleagues cautioned me not to put all my eggs in one basket but I truly felt in my heart and gut that this was the one.  That is, if this person would have me.  Thoughts entered my mind that this person might not get or like what I was trying to create or perhaps they had their sites on something else.  After a lot of back and forth, massaging the terms, expanding the vision, this courtship has been solidified. I am over the moon with excitement, relief, and joy.  I cannot wait to introduce you!   We’re planning the coming out party now, so stay tuned.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Penny Profiler #33


Michi Suzuki & Jeanine Burke.  Movers and Shakers extraordinaire.  I can’t decide whether they have their fingers on the pulse or they are the pulse.  Their impressive credentials include being moms, business owners (see it for yourself at http://www.suzukichoumedia.com and http://www.windermere.com/agents/jeanine-burke-1), civic wonder women, animal lovers, cyclists, spirited friends, excellent cooks, drinkers, and disco dancers (although Jeanine really deserves the title on this one)… and this list just scratches the surface because the list goes on and on!  In the midst of all of that, they made time to deliver pennies for my project.  This blog feels a little like a modern day show & tell, that allows me to introduce you all to my special friends.  I think they’re pretty rad, neato, tubular, or whatever I would have said back in 1980.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Penny Profiler #32


Bo Maisano & Sue McCown. Sue is among my dearest friends and while she is worthy of my constant praise, Bo (her beau) deserves the credit for this penny endowment. 

The picture doesn’t do the 18 lbs of pennies justice.  These coins have been with him, a collection on the floor of his car, since he lived in Louisiana before 2000. Every so often, he would throw them in a bag when he cleaned the car. When he returned to New Orleans post Katrina, a new bag started and as he let me know, there are lots of dirty Katrina pennies in the midst too.  Moving around all of those years, the bag just came along for the trip, getting a little bigger year after year. It only shrank when he would rifle through it looking for quarters for the parking meter.  Then my callout arrived in his inbox for these little one scent wonders and he granted this loving collection a new home. 

When I think about one single penny and its seemingly minuscule worth, I think about the bigger collection.  By themselves they mean very little, but join them with a group and their union makes something very special and unique with beautifully woven stories.  So humbled they will be the ground floor to my first bar.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Subject to Public Opinion


My annual Wine Rocks event drew to a close last week drawing the praise of most who were in attendance, but not all.  An attendee who writes for the Seattle Weekly blog shared her disdain for the night and it was a reminder of an old lesson… “You can please some of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time”.  I walked away feeling conflicted.  On one hand grateful that we were noticed, just not in the way I would have hoped.  And, no matter what the circumstances are, you don’t want people to leave with a bad taste in their mouth. 

This made me think of the scrutiny I will open myself and crew up to with a public establishment.  Brimmer & Heeltap will be subjected to even more reviews, especially as those that want to share experiences - good and bad - scratch that social media itch.   I just want all feedback to be overwhelmingly great. But I believe that no matter what we try to create or the level to which we try to control the factors ensuring an enjoyable experience, some people just won’t get it or won’t like us no matter what we do to make it better.  Let the thick skin begin growing extra layers.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Penny Profiler #31


Julia Jongsma. I am convinced that she was born in the wrong era or perhaps mixed in between a few.  A lovely lady that is straddled with women’s lib and free love.  She’s among the first to hug a tree, donate to kickstarter and promote a cause on seeyourimpact.org.   Her adoration of beer, wine, and all things booginish lure the best of us.  One of these years I’ll join her naked splendor and ride along side at the Solstice Parade.  Her laugh (and handkerchief episodes) are never to be forgotten.  While her butt may be in a different state at the moment, someday she’ll be back and be bellied up to the B&H bar and we’ll all be better for it.   

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Penny Profiler #30


Danielle Zahaba.  Witty banter, literary tales, excellent use of adjectives or superlatives, and delectable cocktails come to mind with Miss DZ.  Our paths crossed when she returned to the great northwest after a stint on the east coast.  My liver and reality tv show frivolity can attest to her spirited return.  My favorite cocktail of hers that will have a spot on our menu (invoice me for the royalties) is the Snarky Ginger served in a rocks glass over ice.  1.5 ounces of Bourbon, ½ ounce lime juice, dash of rhubarb bitters and top with ginger beer.  I cannot confirm or deny that the cocktail name was derived from the reputation of said friend.  Snarky isn’t a bad thing!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Burgenland?


I wrestle with what to include/exclude on our menu of drinking options.  There are so many wonderful wines, brews and spirits.  I see the list changing often and with emphasis on the more limited production and owner operated products.  This alone is worthy of its own post.

My time at Pike & Western wine shop and their new sister, Soul Wine, helped open my palate in ways I can never repay.  I often rely upon recommendations from their spirited team to introduce me to the latest and greatest. 

Meet the 2009 Sattler St. Laurent from Burgenland, retails for around $20 +/-.  I had never heard of Burgenland before this wine and I couldn’t be happier to know such a place exists after trying it.  Burgenland is Austria’s most Eastern province and joined the Republic only in 1921.  Before that, they were under Hungarian administration and referred to as “Western Hungary” or “Vierburgenland”, that means four castle land.

Erich Sattler is part of a fourth generation winemaking family taking the helm around 1999.  If you’re ever in the neighborhood and want to visit them check out  http://www.erichsattler.at/Default.aspx

A bit about the grape: St. Laurent is a highly aromatic dark-skinned wine grape from the same family as Pinot Noir, originating in France.  It is the most widely planted red variety in the Czech Republic.  In Austria, it is primarily found in the regions of Niederosterreich and Burgenland.  A small quantity is also grown in New Zealand and the varietal is also finding a small foothold in Canada.

The wines are part of the Terry Theise Collection and his write up was too priceless not to share…

“Three days’ bottled when I saw it, but its juicy velvety texture was lovely and the sweet plum fruit gives a forthright tasty wine with substance and discretion. Though the texture is almost creamy, the quality of fruit is dry and leans in the Mourvedre direction. 

I had a jar of some truffle goop and wanted to make use of it. Then I thought of Bouloud’s black-truffle and foie burger, and I thought I too can be decadent, so we got some ground veal and made us some slutty patties with the truffle stuff, and just to totally gild the lily we stuffed a pat of Dartagnan black truffle butter in the middle of each, tomelt as the burgers cooked. Oh yeah baby, it tastes as good as it sounds – and the wine to drink with it is precisely, absolutely specifically and particularly a “basic” St. Laurent, assuming you can’t find a decent basic Chorey-Les-Beaune, or would rather pay half its price. 

The bigger “reserve” St. Laurent would have too much fruit, and maybe oak would show, and these wicked little burgers don’t need all that mojo – they have their own. What they need is a yummy wine that knows how to be a straight-man and let the food get the laughs. 

We’re all insanely busy stretching towards the stellar; we really got to rawk the carafe, but if I stand for anything in this lil’ wine-life of mine, it is to insist we learn to cherish wines of modesty. It will make us more kind. It will help us understand the beauty of the humble. It will save us money! 

I have a fantasy that somewhere up on a stage, some international wine mega-star, Guigal comes to mind, is getting a big ostentatious trophy for attaining an average “score” of 98.3 points for his $300+ wines, but back in the big general tasting they’re cleaning up, and a guy approaches some Rhône grower whose $12 Cotes-du-Rhône gave him pleasure, and he says to the grower, “Thank you for this wine, it makes me happy.” No question in my mind where I’d rather be, and who I’d rather be.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Penny Profiler #29



Mandy Machamer.  My mom told me growing up that boyfriends will come and go but girlfriends can last a lifetime.  Mandy and I may have met when we each had different men on our arms but thankfully the girlfriend connection passed muster.  She is one of the silliest, most outgoing girls I know.  With a distinguishable laugh that lights up a room, I can hardly wait for her butt to be at the bar for some comic and sweet relief. 

For the penny exchange I was invited over to enjoy dinner for one of the first al fresco meals of the season.  Mandy, her sweet boyfriend Brian, and their pet hedgehog Quest made my night!  

Monday, July 2, 2012

Local Inspirations (Part IV)


I continue to scour this area, and beyond, for destinations that motivates my senses and act as a template for better business practices.  These are a few downtown options that I have always been impressed with and hope that you can make time to enjoy a meal within their walls.

Lecosho: Matt Janke won me over years ago at his gourmet counter in the market known as Matt’s in the Market.  Today, Lecosho is always among my favorites to visit.  It’s convenient and semi-hidden location on Harbor Steps makes this a great destination downtown for lunch, happy hour, and dinner.

Beloved Dish: Tie between the anchovy salad or the roasted chicken
Special detail: Great happy hour & late night menu!


Farestart: Their tagline is “the most socially responsible crouton you’ll ever eat.”  This is a comprehensive 16 week training program combining hands on food service training with classroom instruction, individual case management and job placement services.  This program prepares homeless and disadvantaged men and women for jobs in the restaurant and hospitality industry and helps them to keep those jobs. 

Each Thursday evening they host Guest Chef Night where a different local area restaurant brings their culinary team to work with the students in preparing a 3 course meal for only $29.95, with a 100% of those proceeds going back into the program. 

Beloved Chef: Paratti Café (His business partner is a former graduate of this program)
Special Detail: Farestart offers catering options too!
Favorite Server: Timothy


Saturday, June 30, 2012

Delay of Game


For the record, I have really missed posting here.  I use it as a barometer or accountability on my progress.  Not posting certainly doesn’t mean a lack of activity on the back end but I do feel a sense of responsibility to keep up what I started.  Pressure is a blessing and a curse.  Alas, other responsibilities called and I’m back, if only temporarily. 

In less than a few weeks (7/11/12) an event I created called Wine Rocks will roll out for its 5th installment.  This is an annual wine and music extravaganza that has grown considerably since its inception.  We have added more wineries, breweries, distilleries and food trucks to accommodate the larger and more scenic venue.  The backdrop to the evening is Elliott Bay, and I'm getting really excited.  Five bands will play throughout the course of the evening on Pier 66 while guest enjoy the fruits of labor supplied by the local winemakers, brewmasters and distillers.  Check it out at www.winerocksseattle.com

Needless to say between this, my shifts at Ray’s and making headway on Brimmer & Heeltap, I have been a busy girl.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Penny Profiler #28



Gabrielle and Scott Higson.  There is a small group of people in my life that I have been fortunate enough to cross paths with who all show up for a weekend to do a little deep tissue work on our emotional well being.  Gabrielle is one of those attendees.  Some may call it happenstance, while others call it divine intervention when certain people come in and out of our lives.  I personally do not believe in accidents and regularly count my lucky stars for this intersection in my life. 

Our penny exchange occurred at their home where I got to meet Scott, her husband, for the first time.  It’s really quite a gift when you get to meet someone’s other half and see such a beautiful, authentic connection.  The penny’s were the vehicle for the introduction and I continue to be humbled by this process.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Penny Profiler #27



Patty Foley & Jesse Moore.  I was lucky enough to cross paths with these two cool cats on Post Alley in the Pike Place Market at my former place of business.  They were on one side of the bar, I on the other.  That scenario happened often enough that a genuine bond was formed and soon we were meeting at favorite hot spots for food and drink outside the work walls. 

Patty & Jesse have a leading role in the Georgetown Haunted History Tour.  It is one of my favorite seasonal excursions and I can’t recommend it enough.  (http://www.georgetownhistory.com/Tour/About/)  

Our penny exchange was hosted at their lovely home in South Seattle where I picked up the Gatorade bottle full of coins (a little pocket lint and cat hair too for good measure).  Makes me giggle thinking about the various vessels I've been receiving and the journey of where these little coins came from.  

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Cents-less?


Our neighbors to the north have started measures to abolish the penny, are we next?  I’ve never been opposed to them but my recent penny collection mission proves that they are pretty polarizing.  Given their puny value, the penny has few friends.  Many consider them a nuisance, while coin collectors vie for their survival.  Using good ol’ fashioned economics, it doesn’t make much sense to keep them around.  They cost more to produce than they are worth.  According to the New York Times, The United States government (aka the taxpayers) lost $60.2 million on the production and distribution of pennies in the 2011 fiscal year.  A number of countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and Britain, have already dropped their lowest-denominated coins without dire consequence.

Nostalgia is bittersweet with recollections of yesteryear and what I could purchase at the candy shop, or toss into a well for a wish.  What will we lay on the railroad tracks?  I guess another coin will suffice, but it’s just not the same.  If the penny dies, we'll demote the poor nickel to the bottom of the pickle jar and wonder what to do when it's full.  Amazon has a tawdry list of ridiculous products for sale, each for the asking price of a penny.  My favorites included “Dance The Macarena” VHS, Paparazzi Shades, or “Full House” Button/Pins with either Dave Coulier or John Stamos' picture on it.

Well if these little coins are put out to pasture, I’ll have thousands of them that will lay entombed at Brimmer & Heeltap.  

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Penny Profiler #26


Stacey Anderson and Kevin Klein.  The very soon-to-be Mr. and Mrs. Klein.  Farkle is to blame.  Stacey and some of her friends took it upon themselves to whip out a travel Farkle set and get their game on at my place of business.  Well their unbridled enthusiasm and competitive spirit sealed the deal.  Thankfully it takes more than a roll of the dice to keep good friends like this around.  They are great story tellers, party throwers, campers, dinner hosts, interior decorator (sorry Kev but Stacey wins that title hands down!) Rainier beer and fine red wine drinking buddies.  They are uber passionate and a few of the best debaters I’ve ever come across. 

Our penny swap came one night as we met to discuss their wedding plans on their roof top deck.  Not a bad setting overlooking the city and quite fitting as we contemplated all of our next chapters.  

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Vermouth Inspired Cocktails


Bastardo

1 ounce Brandy
1/2 ounce Dry Vermouth
1/2 ounce Sweet Vermouth
A couple of dashes of Orange Bitters
Chilled Club Soda

Place all ingredients, except for the club soda, into a shaker filled with ice.  Slowly stir the mixture for 30 seconds and then strain into a cocktail glass filled with fresh ice.  Top with a splash of club soda; serve immediately.

Bijou

1 ounce Gin
1 ounce Sweet Vermouth
1 ounce Green Chartreuse
Dash orange bitters

Stir with ice and strain into chilled coupe glass.  Garnish with cherry and lemon twist.

Caprice

1 ½ ounce Gin
1 ½ ounce Dry Vermouth
½ ounce Benedictine
Dash orange bitters


Stir with ice and strain into chilled coupe glass.  Garnish with orange twist.

Duplex

equal parts GOOD Sweet & Dry Vermouth
Regans Orange Bitters
CCCOLD & UUUp, served with a twist

Manhattan


2 ounces bourbon
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1 drop orange oil
Cherry
Orange twist

Negroni

1 oz. gin
1 oz. Campari
1 oz. sweet vermouth
Ice cubes

Stir ingredients in a mixing glass, strain into a chilled cocktail glass (or ice-filled double rocks glass) and garnish with an orange twist.

Trilby No. 2

1 ¾ oz Scotch
½ oz Sweet Vermouth
½ oz Parfait Amour
2 dashes Absente
Orange Twist




Friday, June 1, 2012

Penny Profiler #25


Debbie Brandt.  Our paths crossed nearly a decade ago while doing a little soul searching.  Lucky for me we still gather a few times a year to dig deep into the emotional database.  She’s a ray of maternal light that fosters a can-do, accomplish your dreams attitude.  A true inspiration to women everywhere!

Our penny exchange was delicious as it was set to a multiple course meal at Café Lago.  Hours passed as we explored the historical points along our shared timeline.  Ah, the powers of red wine and delicious food! I don’t get to see her all that often, but our visits leave me a little wiser and give me the confidence to march forward.  After this visit I was armed with sense and cents! 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Vermouth Tasting Results


Okay, so we’ve compiled the results from our blind tasting and all is noted below.  Our criteria was to select the best tasting vermouth without consideration of how it would taste with different spirits or other ingredients added, simply on its own at that moment.  All wines were served slightly chilled.  After the tasting, we explored making different cocktails and experiments with the vermouths we didn’t rate as high.  As it turns out they made excellent mixers versus standing on their own. The drinks were remarkable and the nuance of adding different vermouth’s makes a big difference!  I’ll compile all the recipes too and send that out in a future post.  Prices listed are suggested retail.

Extra Dry Category
·         Boissiere – France $8.99, voted least favorite.  Overt chemical aromas and flavor profile
·         Montana Perucchi – Spain $18.99, voted 1st place, pleasant oxidized characters and similar to Sherry.  Worked nicely by itself and with food.
·         Vya – California $14.99, voted 2nd place, it was the most unique for scent and flavor.  Strong mulled spices and viscous qualities.

Dry Category
·         Dolin – France $13.99, voted least favorite.  Hot nose and finish coupled with chemical attributes made it unpleasant
·         Noilly Prat – France $9.99, voted 2nd place, strong herbaceous qualities, a bit hot on the nose and palate.
·         Vya – California $14.99, voted 1st place and the clear winner in this category.  Light, crisp, balanced acidity and herbs.

Red Category – There wasn’t a clear winner in this group.  The Dolin and Perucchi tied for first, the Carpano & Cocchi tied for second place. 
·         Carpano Antica Formula – Italy $26.99, came across as medicinal upfront with caramel & fruit tones on the finish
·         Cocchi Storico di Torino – Italy $18.99 voted last place, concentrated root beer flavors without much else
·         Dolin – France $13.99, voted first place.  Most versatile and balance between the sarsaparilla and botanical notes.
·         Montana Perucchi – Spain $18.99, great aromatics and garnet color.  Balanced flavor.  A bit polarizing with perfume-like nose.
·         Vergano Chinato  - Italy $44.99, liked not loved.  Near the bottom but more “safe” than interesting.

Sweet White Category
·         Imbue – Oregon $24.99 voted 2nd place and another crowd pleaser.  Well balanced with strong botanicals, acidity and sweetness coming through.
·         Dolin Blanc – France $13.99, 3rd place overall and left a rather lackluster impression on us, however, as guests arrived I poured this as an aperitif over ice with a twist and it was a huge hit. 
·         Montana Perucchi – Spain $18.99 voted least favorite.  Lacked balance and structure.
·         Vergano Chinato Luli – Italy $44.99 voted 1st place and praise for another outstanding vermouth overall. 

Sweet Red Category
·         Boissiere – France $8.99, well liked by the group (tied for my personal favorite in this category), perfume-like aromas with sweet/caramel flavors.
·         Carpano Punt e Mes – Italy $19.99, voted least favorite.  Too medicinal and overpowering flavors.  Seems more like a traditional Amaro than a vermouth
·         Dolin – France $13.99, rated better than the Carpano but not by a big margin.  Unbalanced, sharp flavors and didn’t invite further sips.
·         Vya – California $14.99, another crowd pleaser (tied with the Boissiere for me), super aromatic and lingering finish.

Americano Category – I borrowed this description from vermouth101.com
There are a number of venerable aperitif wines that aren’t vermouths, but have much in common with vermouth. One group of these wines is known as “quinquina” (kenKEEnah), because historically these wines feature (or at least include) Peruvian chinchona bark (“quina” in the native Quechua tongue, “china” [KEE-nah] in italian, and possibly Anglicized as china [chai-nuh]) amongst their botanicals. Chinchona bark is the primary source of quinine (the pharmaceutical and taste component of Tonic water). Quinine became the wonder drug of the 18th Century when colonizing Europeans realized that it was beneficial in warding off malaria, and for a while, Europeans were adding quinine to anything and everything. A major market for quinquina was France’s protracted campaign in Algeria, which held large numbers of French troops and administrators in tropical peril. Some quinquina was specifically produced with the French foreign legion in mind.
Americano can be looked at as either a sub-class of quinquina or its own style, entirely. Americano refers to the wordamer—bitter—not the New World. Where quinquina’s defining flavor is quinine, Americano’s is gentian and/or wormwood. Vermouth, quinquina, and americano all draw from much the same pool of botanicals, and their classification or style is a question of the intent behind the proprietary formulation. Both Quinquina and Americano can come in various colors, such as deep red, straw or even clear (colorless). Almost all are based on white wine mistelle, although one notable exception is Byrrh, which is based on a red wine mistelle.

Quinquinas and Americano’s serve a similar function to vermouths: they are excellent aperitifs on their own, and they make fine components of mixed drinks.
Cocchi Americano– Italy $18.99, white
Vergano Chinato Americano – Italy $39.99, red

We couldn’t justify voting on them against one another since one was white and the other was red.  They were both AMAZING. The Vergano was voted best in show by most of the group. 

Stay tuned for a list of cocktails that we are inspired by vermouth.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Anxiety, Nerves, & Emotions


No one can prepare you for the range of emotions that go into starting a business.  Sure you can take classes on how to create a business or marketing plan, budgeting 101, bartending,  or human resources, but no training manual is set up to prepare you for the emotional roller coaster.

The encouragement is bleak.  Restaurants are among the ten most risky businesses to start and most of them fail.  The pressure, responsibility and duty to do it right is heavy. 

Do you recall the Tortoise and the Hare fable?  ‘The race is not to the swift'. The obstinate Tortoise continues to the finishing line and is proclaimed the swiftest by his backers. In any case, my natural tendency on projects errs on the side of the hare.  Move swiftly and expedite the processes. However, today, my intuition, business coach, and industry mentor tell me that I need to be patient.  Keep focused.  Do not give up.  Slow and steady is a good thing.  So while my intellect knows that I cannot rush this process, my ego and heart feels harnessed.  

At times I feel discouraged and frustrated.  While the support from my family, friends, and acquaintances is what keeps me going there are times when I have to hide my frustration when there is no news to report as I’m asked for updates. 

There are substantial financial burdens associated with this endeavor that stay on the front burner of my emotions too.  Every penny that I spend out of pocket now, is a penny that I don’t get to spend later on the project.

By nature I am a planner and I have to readjust for next month, or three months from now because I have no idea when the space could come up.  It takes center stage in my life and sometimes that sucks.  I am getting good at responding to requests with “I don’t know right now, I’ll let you know as the date draws near.”

Please note: this post certainly is not intended as a pity party but rather an honest account of the range of emotions associated with this endeavor and I want to truthfully document this progression.  

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Penny Profiler #24


Rebecca Gerben & Amit Mehta.  I meet a lot of people over alcohol, it is the nature of my work.  Over the years the quantity vs quality debate has been raised.  I’ll always take the latter (for both friends and alcohol).  These two are charming examples.  Our paths originally crossed professionally while they were planning their nuptials, and as we’ve seen from earlier posts, I’ve been known to blur those lines when it’s worth it.

We have been known to imbibe with worthy cocktails (Amit is a fantastic mixologist btw), beer, vino, vermouth, and I hope this is just the tip of the iceberg.  We swapped pennies while on a cocktail boondoggle visiting east Capitol Hill.  The mere mention of their names conjures the perfect Negroni.  Their zeal for life brings me great joy and I’m lucky to call them friends. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Vermouth Revolution


We are now in the midst of a vermouth revolution.  Over the years I have enjoyed my share of well made Martini’s, Manhattan’s, or the occasional Negroni, drinks that are synonymous for their use of vermouth.  For some reason this ingredient in my drink really never made me stop to take stock of how it could make/break the integrity of the cocktail.  After our recent tasting, I am humbled to say the least. 

I really owe my curiosity to Jeffery Bergman.  He and his wife had me over for dinner a few months ago and served me a light amber beverage in a small glass over ice and with a twist.  I loved it and was so intrigued by it. When he told me it was vermouth, I about fell off my chair.  We don’t know, what we don’t know and this was a beautiful illumination.  So I started collecting them with the goal to host a tasting. 

A little background and history about this beverage.  Check out http://vermouth101.com/ for more useful information!

Vermouth is a fortified, aromatized wine: the ingredients are wine, herbs and plants, grape spirit and sugar.  The practice of aromatizing wine dates back to the Ancient Greeks.  This was formerly done to mask poor wine or as later to add extra complexity to something already good.  It also proved to be an effective form of early, homeopathic medicine.   The name was derived from the German “Wermut” or Anglo-Saxon “Wermod” (wormwood), a plant with powerful medicinal and psychoactive properties.

From the time of the Romans and perhaps the Greeks wormwood infusions were used to cure intestinal worms.  Because wormwood is extremely bitter, sugar and spices were added.  In the mid 1700’s, in Northern Italy, such infusions began to be drunk as aperitifs.  The first commercial success in 1786 was credited to Carpano from Turin Italy, who began selling a specially processed infusion (his grandmother’s recipe) as vermouth.  Fourteen years later Joseph Noilly of Lyons France created French dry vermouth based on the delicate dry white of the Herault infused with wormwood and local plants such as lavender.  Right up until the 20th century, doctors regularly prescribed Vermouths and aromatized liqueurs for all manner of illness, and many people continue to take a glass per day for medicinal reasons. 

A dozen of us recently blind tasted 20 different vermouths with the categories of extra dry, dry, red, sweet, and Americano (the latter isn’t technically a vermouth but is used in bars as one) and I am working on the results so stay tuned for a  follow-up post.