Tales ’11: Wrap-Up Day Two

It was only day two of Tales, and already I was mentally adding up how many drinks I could reasonably expect to taste that day.  Finally, looking at my planner, I realized that the evening’s festivities would be pushing my personal envelope.  Regardless, I  started the morning off with a bracer of six rare South American and Caribbean rums at a seminar hosted by Ed Hamilton of Ministry of Rum fame.  Notes on the rums themselves will follow next week when I get back home, but suffice it to say that they were all unique and I was honored to be able to try them.

After the seminar I headed up to the Hotel Monteleone’s Vieux Carre room for an Angostura based luncheon and a few bitters based cocktails.  Probably the most interesting item in the room was homemade vanilla ice cream with a hefty dose of Angostura bitters splashed on top.  It totally rocked, and makes me think that the flavor combination of vanilla, cream and Angostura needs to be explored further in cocktails.

After lunch I walked back down to the lobby, which was absolutely jam packed with Tales conventioneers.  I ran into a few friends including Paul Pacult and Allen Katz, but with so many things to “go-see-do” on our plates, we only had time to share a brief greeting.

The next seminar was a Swizzling presentation hosted by Stanislav Vadrna of Slovakian cocktail fame.  He began by throwing his “best friend” into the audience, a roll of toilet paper.  Everyone laughed, but Stanislav encouraged everyone to take a few sheets and pass the roll around the room.  When everyone had finally taken a piece, he made his point; which was that during our morning constitutional we don’t think about what we are doing, but we do it with excellence and a sense of grace.  It is this attitude that we should integrate into our bartending.  In other words, be in the moment, or as the Japanese say, “Ichi-go ichi-e” (literally “one time, one meeting”).

Stanislav covered a lot of territory in terms of mindfulness and intentional action, but only spent the last 30 minutes discussing swizzling techniques and the history and use of various wooden swizzles used around the world.  The highlight was at the very end, when everyone in the room made swizzle cocktails at the same time.  It created quite a unique sound that I won’t soon forget.

By the time the seminar ended, my wife and I had just enough time to get ourselves ready for the evening’s festivities, first of which was an amazing happy hour hosted by Diageo at the Cabildo, the museum of Louisana history.  The event featured forty bartenders serving drinks based on geographical themes, spread out over three floors.  Several bartending friends were there including Sean Kenyon, Danny Valdez, Ian Burrell, Marvin Allen, Shawn Soole, Steve Olson and Jim Romdall.  An amazing gathering of who’s who in the bar world.  Pacing myself was a challenge, but I needed to consider what was planned next on the agenda.

Which was a traditional beefsteak dinner at Tujague’s restaurant hosted by Simon Ford and David Wondrich.  Preprandial cocktails circa Jerry Thomas’ era began the evening at the old bar.  My wife & I ordered a pair of Improved Holland Cock-tails, whilst others requested Ramos Gin Fizzes, Sazeracs and Mint Juleps.  Dinner itself was served in the front dining room with cloth aprons and paper chef hats provided for each participant.  My wife and I had done our homework on traditional beefsteak dinners the week before we arrived, so we decorated our paper hats with traditional phrases like “OICURMT” and “Tammany Tigers”.  When David Wondrich saw them he burst out laughing and congratulated us on our decorations.

Large pitchers of 1800’s style punch were placed on the table along with a plate of coarse salt, unsalted butter, rolls and radishes.  We were also brought mugs of ale to wash down each course. First course was kidneys, second sweetbreads, third lambchops and lastly the beefsteak itself.  The only utensils available were our fingers, so the aprons came in handy.  By the time we were done, we were set to burst and decided we had to call it a night in spite of the temptation of even more cocktails back at the bar.  So, smiling (as Jerry Thomas would have expected) we strolled back to Dauphine St. and bid NOLA a fond goodnight until the morrow.

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