Category Archives for "Product Reviews"
Vitamix Vitaprep 3
Rating: 4 out of 5 fucking stars
Vitamix was founded back when America was great again. By the late 40’s we’d won the war by inventing freedom, but America was just getting started. We had something even more impactful and earth shattering to invent: The Infomercial.
Vitamix founder William G. “Papa” Barnard brought his revolutionary blender to television audiences, setting the stage for everything from the Snuggie to Shamwow to Presidential candidate debates on Fox. With his overpowered blender and the narcotizing effects of television, Vitamix became the standard in blending technology for a generation.
The blenders themselves have only improved since those halcyon days. The current iteration, the Vita-prep 3, is built like a tank. It’s clearly designed with the professional kitchen in mind. With 2 switches and a knob, the controls are straightforward enough that even the extern can figure it out. Its 3hp engine (that’s only 1hp less than a Toyota Yaris) is powerful enough to blend anything to smithereens within a few seconds. Just turning it on can cause the lights to blink like the governor forgot to call the jailhouse.
Even better is the almost deafening white noise it creates when in action. For best results wait until the General Manager is on the phone trying to get the dietary restrictions down for tonight’s big top reservation. Once he gets to the part about the gluten allergies let it rip: VROOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMM. That right there makes it worth the price of admission.
Since this is an industrial blender, it’ll need the occasional servicing. That’s the best part. Whereas other brands are meant to be tossed upon breaking, the Vita-Prep 3 is easily repaired. If it’s still under warranty, just pack it up and ship it off to Vitamix for free repairs. According to their site, they can repair machines up to 20 years old if they have the parts.
In conclusion, 4 out of 5 stars. One star withheld because it only blends clockwise, even in the southern hemisphere.
The Vita-Prep 3 is a must-have for any professional kitchen. In fact, if you are working in a kitchen without a Vita-Prep 3, you should probably consider looking for a new job. Here, let me help you with that.
If you already have one, go make a puree and give a little thanks to Papa Barnard.
I once worked with a chef who believed strongly in the ‘working interview.’ One of his favorite tests was to have them chop parsley. If they used a sharp knife and proper technique, the parsley would be perfectly cut, green and fresh. If they used a dull knife the leaves would be more torn than chopped – and would quickly oxidize, turning black before they even made it to the line.
We know the importance of good tools – so we’re giving away a Chubo Kazan 8” chef knife. To get your chance to win, simply follow us on Instagram – @poachedjobs – take a pic of your knife kit, post it and tag it with #PoachedJobs AND #dontchopbelieving. We’ll take entries from March 15th to March 31st and draw a winner at random.
But wait! There’s more!
We’ll also be giving away hats, tee shirts and (of course) Sharpies along the way, all the while sharing your posts with the world! So get going and start posting to Instagram for your chance to win!
Featured Contest Posts:
Check out this gorgeous knife kit from @ryan7_823 who entered this shot for his chance to win our #dontchopbelieving #contest. We’ve partnered with @chuboknives to give away a Kazan 8″ Chef Knife worth over $200 and are accepting entries until March 31! See our blog (link in profile) for details: http://bit.ly/1MboeT7 #chefs #chefsofinstagram #cheflife #chefsroll #chefstalk #restaurantlife #knives #knife #chef #hiringchefs #chopped #cooking #cook #food #cocina #chefslife #cheftalk #chefsofinstagram #chefsoninstagram #chefstyle
A photo posted by @poachedjobs on
We are really digging the shot of this solid collection from @cloud_pleaser that he entered for our contest. Have you entered our #dontchopbelieving contest yet? Check out the link in our bio for your opportunity to win a @chuboknives Kazan 8″ chef knife! the whole team’s here #kniferoll #toolsofthetrade #truecooks #knife #spoon #japanese #chef #cook #dontchopbelieving #poached #poachedjobs #chefs #cheflife #cheftalk #chefstyle #chefsofinstagram #chefstatus #knife #tools #chef #kitchen #sharp #blue
Keep ’em coming chefs! We are just loving all the knives and tools you’re all sharing with us for our #dontchopbelieving contest! We’re seeing tons of great photography too, so fun! 📷: @kadechuandra #contest #chefs #chefslife #chefstalk #chefstyle #chefstatus #chefsofinstagram #chefsroll #chefswag #restaurantlife #knives #knivesdaily #knivesofinstagram #cook #tools #toolsofthetrade #knife #kniferoll #japanese #kitchen #sharp #photooftheday #photo #cocina
A photo posted by @poachedjobs on
This shot from @girl_eats_all is everything! The sun is shining here in Portland and we are so excited for Spring. This girls’ knife kit on those gorgeous colorful veggies describes the mood here perfectly. #spring #veggies #knives #knifekit #chefs #cheflife #chefstalk #chefsofinstagram #chefsroll #fresh #rainbow #colors #eathealthy #eatfresh #healthy #healthyliving #jobs #job #jobpost #joblisting #poached #poachedjobs #gethired #jobpost #eating #food #foodporn #foodie #foodphotography
We have some more swag to give away! This time 4 goodie bags (well, they will actually be boxes…) are going out to the following chefs whose knives are pictured clockwise from the top left: @kmcooks @chefmattdhillon @vikernchua @dannydanerthon! Will you 4 chefs please DM us with your mailing address so we can send happiness your way! #dontchopbelieving #chef #chefs #cheflife #chefsroll #chefstalk #chefsofinstagram #food #photography #knives #knivesofinstagram #cook #knifekit #slice #chop #chopped #kitchen #cocina #cooking #restaurantlife #contest #swag #win
While it still may be the depths of January, it’s time to start thinking about spring! Soon enough the rain and snow will give way to warm breezes, requests for patio seating and refreshing warm weather wines. In an effort to keep you ahead of the game here’s a quick rundown of some of the wines worth searching out – you can thank us when your guests are happily sipping in the sunshine.
Sigalas Assyrtiko Santorini 2015
I won’t lie to you, this bottle is expensive, hard to pronounce and none of your guests have heard of it. Despite all those minor issues, it’s also delicious and food friendly. It has notes of citrus and minerality with a bracing acidity. Pair this with just about any seafood, but especially squid or scallops.
Importer: Michael Skurnik
Benito Santos Albarino Rias Baixas 2015
Albarino is “sunshine in a bottle.” While I have no idea who actually said that, it’s completely true. Albarino is lemony, refreshing and gives the slightest hint of the ocean breeze. This wine is much more approachable than the Sigalas, not to mention cheaper. Pair it with with seafood – but also goat cheese if you’re feeling fancy.
Importer: Numerous importers – check in with your local distributor
Berger Gruner Veltliner Kremstal 2014 (1L)
Everything about this wine makes it the perfect glass pour. First, it comes in a 1 liter bottle. It’s like getting 250ml for free. Second, it has what is known as a “Crown Cap” – just like a beer bottle! It even makes a satisfying kiss noise when you open it. The wine itself is simple, with hints of green apple and a touch of grassiness. It’s what cheap white wine is supposed to be – dry and gulpable.
Importer: Terry Theise (No Website! C’mon Terry it’s like 2016 already!)
Ameztoi Rubentis Txakolina 2015
Real men drink rosé. Realer men drink rosé from Spain’s Basque region. The Ameztoi is slightly fizzy, slightly floral, with a touch of orange peel and red berries all framed by a refreshing acidity. This wine will make you wonder why you’ve wasted so much time drinking anything else. This wine should automatically entitle anyone who orders one to a second bottle and an Uber home. This wine is all you need to hand to a guest looking for something new and different – and now you have a regular for life.
Importer: De Maison Selections
Arianna Occhipinti SP68 Rosso 2013
If you’re not in love with Arianna Occhipinti it’s only for the simple fact you’ve not met Arianna Occhipinti. The next best thing to being in love with Arrianna Occhipinti is drinking her wines, of which the SP68 Rosso is a great example. She sources from her family’s Sicilian vineyards, making clean wines that are pure, bright and unforgettable. Pair with herb roasted meats, cured meats and olives. Best when drunk while wistfully whispering “Arianna” over and over.
Tipping is evolving – this should be no surprise to anyone in the industry. Once Danny Meyer announced he was eliminating tipping from his restaurant group, it was clear things were about to change. One large component of the shift has been the relative scarcity of cooks, leaving many restaurants short-handed. As wages have failed to rise in the Back of the House many would-be line cooks have left the industry completely. In order to attract a new generation of cooks, owners have opened up to the idea of dropping tips, raising prices and paying all their employees a higher wage.
2016 will see this issue come up again and again – especially as this restructuring of employee compensation starts to effect menu prices, staffing, taxes and regulations.
The Restaurant App
It seems like the restaurant industry was about to be rocked by a new app every year since 2010. As ‘software eats the world’ one company after another has attempted to break into the lucrative (?) food & drink industry. There have been reservation apps, payment apps and apps giving hyper-local reviews. For the most part, however, these enterprises have felt like solutions looking for a problem (I never had much issue getting a reservation or paying for a meal without reaching for my iPhone.) This year’s attempt: Food delivery apps. Expect to see dozens of companies either delivering food straight from select restaurants or driving to your customer’s door with their own meals.
In 2016 you will likely hear from a number of companies wanting to be your delivery partner – try to decide if these services are going to fit your business model. The upside will be a new revenue stream. The downside? You’ll have a lot less control over your brand when it’s on someone else’s platform. Choose wisely.
For fine-dining it makes sense to have both a FOH and BOH staff, but as wages rise it’s harder and harder to support table service for more affordable concepts. New restaurants will be looking for ways to optimize their labor costs without compromising on the menus they serve. While “fast casual” and “quick serve” have long carried the stigma of fast food, a new set of chefs and owners are appealing to younger diners less interested in formality. While Panera Bread and Chipotle are the big national brands, there are plenty of smaller examples. In Portland, Oregon there is Pollo Norte; in Denver there is the Slotted Spoon; and other concepts are popping up every day.
If you’re thinking of opening a new restaurant in 2016, give some thought to fast casual models. They can be cheaper to run, more flexible and perhaps even more profitable than traditional sit down restaurants.
Smaller Wine lists
While the big book o’ wine will never completely go away, many owners and managers are shrinking their wine inventories and focusing on sales. Instead of packing a list with all the great producers and vintages, somms and buyers are looking to serve delicious wines for affordable prices. But this isn’t a move to dumb anything down – today’s wine consumer is as savvy as ever. A smaller list means more opportunity to highlight up and coming regions and styles (hopefully someone will notice Sicily) as well as to turn the list over to fit seasonal menus.
In 2016 a great way to differentiate yourself from your competition, as well as to create a better dining experience, is simplifying your wine list. This is a golden age of wine – winemakers all over the world have access to modern equipment – so take advantage.
Every year there are big ingredient trends/beverage trends or concept trends that consultants tout as the next big thing. We predict 2016 will have all 3 (poke with a glass of sherry at my solar powered pop-up anyone?) But we also see a return to the basics for many top operators. Chasing trends can get a crowd in the door, but they rarely stay for very long once a new hot restaurant opens up down the street. The big winners of 2016 will be pizza parlors, fried chicken shacks and solid regional cuisine.
Going into 2016, many consumers have trend-fatigue. It’s too much to keep up with the hottest gluten-free grain or whose chocolate is the most authentic. If you provide a warm, inviting space and serve unique takes on familiar dishes you’ll fill your dining room night after night.
The Secret Santa Holiday Party is coming up! So you’ve drawn names from a hat and now have to come up with a Secret Santa gift for a co-worker. Just to add to the fun, you’ve just been hired and don’t know anyone yet. Don’t worry – we’ve been there. Here’s the 1st Annual Poached Holiday gift guide for the procrastinating Secret Santa. To make this even easier on you we’ve arranged this by the job-role of the recipient. Good luck!
What do you give to the person that deals with nothing but people? Hungry, impatient people? People whose sense of time is more distorted than the directors cut of Interstellar? How about a Hostess Mini Cupcake Maker!
Servers are constantly in motion. They move from table to table with an effortless grace. When you’re trying to pick out a gift, think about what they need to make their shift even easier… like maybe a Hidden Tie Flask?
These are the people who make the whole game possible. If it wasn’t for these guys pushing out plates all night long, there wouldn’t even be a restaurant, much less a holiday party. These people work hard, and maybe after a long shift of collecting burns and cuts they need to be recognized as the super heroes that they are. Give them a Batman Apron!
You just started so you only know one thing about Chef: that he hates you. Something about the long glare, the snarled commands and the way he only smiles when holding a knife scares the Santa out of you. But really, being a chef is hard, maybe the hardest of all restaurant jobs. Maybe he just needs a nice hug for Christmas. Don’t try to hug him yourself, though, not when you can pass that off to a professional…
What do you get for the person who has everything? It’s hard to match their level of constant anxiety and crippling debt, so Christmas shopping for the restaurant owner can be tricky! So think about what causes a restaurant owner the most stress: eating at other restaurants! They can’t just sit there and watch food sit in the window, customers milling around the host station and a room full of lipstick smudged empty glasses without dying inside. How about a nice blindfold for the next time they eat out!
Yelp hasn’t made many friends in the industry. In fact, it’s been an easy target around the Poached offices. So when we saw what ChefsFeed was up to, we jumped at the chance to review their redesigned app. Billing themselves as “Your inside connection, proudly presented by chefs” ChefsFeed has brought a whole new idea to online restaurant reviews: expertise.
It seems shocking that it requires someone to have the bright idea of ‘Hey! Let’s get reviews from people who know what they’re talking about!’ ChefsFeed eschews the Yelp approach of having anyone with a mouth and an internet connection writing reviews. Instead of misinformed opinions focused on perceived slights, ChefsFeed gets input from Chefs and other restaurant professionals.
The result is a fun and authentic experience that takes the guesswork out of trying a new place. Simply open the app, click on the Feed Me icon and you’ll be treated to restaurants right in your location. Instead of a dry list, or a map view, users are shown each restaurant’s best dishes. Click on a dish and you’ll get a full rundown on why it’s the best thing ever from a local chef.
Here in food truck obsessed Portland, some of the top local chefs known for their innovative menus and modern kitchens were more than helpful when describing everything from falafel to “the schnitzelwich.” Absent are the misspelled diatribes about how water should be served or passive-aggressive assertions of “I used to be in the industry.” Instead, users are given real information by real chefs about real restaurants.
Not hungry yet? Well, ChefsFeed thought of that, too. When you fire up the app you’ll also have the option to read articles and view videos that give users the “inside connection.” A recent collaboration with Mise Magazine really gets the ball rolling. Writer Cassandra Landry’s sophisticated take on the happenings in the restaurant industry are a lot of fun to read. I found myself staring at my phone for so long my officemates assumed I was Tinder’ing during work hours again.
So ditch Yelp and download ChefsFeed (iOS or Android) – it’s an idea long in coming and beautifully executed. When I meet Jess (31, likes beer, hiking and the Boston Red Sox) for a drink later I’ll impress her with my insider knowledge of my city’s bar and restaurant scene. Thanks ChefsFeed!
If you’re taking a culinary road trip this summer, you’re going to need The Field Guide to Drinking in America. Author Niki Ganong spent 3 tireless years researching the alcohol related quirks of all 50 US states (and DC!)
Say you’re pulling into Terre Haute, Indiana on a Sunday and you’re thirsty for a beer, well, you might be better off taking a driving break in Illinois and waiting until Monday. Ganong tells us Indiana is one of only 12 states with Blue Laws that ban the sale of alcohol on Sundays.
The Field Guide to Drinking in America is “more than just a collection of laws and regulations” says Ganong. “It also tells the story of America through alcohol.” She tells the story with illustrations, graphs and quick reference sections that make this a book endlessly entertaining to flip through. One particularly nice touch is the use of locals to tell the stories of their own drinking cultures. Bartenders from across the country give insight and advice about their states to potential visitors
Now for the fun part: The laws! Some of the alcohol regulations make sense. For example, Alabama bans drunken pedestrians from walking along the highway (seems reasonable enough.) Other state laws just sound like no fun is allowed at all. South Carolina bans not only bungee jumping when inebriated, but also getting tattoos and piercings (saving plenty a nipple from a poorly reasoned and spontaneous decision.)
When Prohibition ended in 1933 it was left up to the states (and in turn to the counties and cities) to deal with the sale and consumption of alcohol. If we look at each state’s laws we see a clear expression of that area’s interests, needs and concerns. In Kentucky, for example, alcohol sales were illegal on Election Day until 2014. In the bad old days corrupt politicians would set up booths outside of polling stations and trade liquor for votes. Alcohol was not only seen as a threat to individuals, but to the whole of democracy itself.
Other cities, like Mobile, Alabama, are making alcohol more accessible in order to spur economic growth and create jobs. By lifting the ban on public drinking in designated ‘Entertainment Districts’ cities can attract bars and restaurants to formerly blighted areas (all the while containing drunken revelers to areas away from residences). This approach is becoming more and more common across the country as cities are increasingly interested in redeveloping long ignored urban cores.
This is what makes The Field Guide to Drinking In America more than a collection of laws and regulations, but a reflection of American culture. With each state having its own distinct history and drinking traditions, there’s no easier way to get to know a place than to try to buy a drink (and sometimes fail.) Niki Ganong makes it easy to plan your routes so you never end up in the wrong place on a Sunday. So as you plan your perfect road trip, take along this entertaining read and prepare to learn what makes each of our 50 states (and DC!) so special.
Recently, a story swept its way through social media detailing the changes mobile phones have brought to restaurants. According to an unnamed New York City restaurateur with a penchant for security cameras, guests are taking nearly twice as long to eat their meals. The reason: they’re too distracted by their cellphones. While that story might not be actually true, it does identify a growing problem in the restaurant industry – customers won’t put down their phones. NPR’s Alan Greenblatt sat down with some restaurant insiders to get their perspective on cellphones in restaurants. While servers may want customers to put their phones away, restaurant owners may want customers to keep their phones out. Mobile apps are a hot trend in restaurant technology – particularly payment apps. These apps give customers a new way to settle their tabs – after finishing their meal they can simply leave. The whole payment process happens over their smartphones with little to no intervention from the restaurant.
Recently, OpenTable announced they were launching a payment app at over 45 restaurants in New York City, with plans to open in 20 cities by the end of the year. While they are not first to the market, they are already familiar to diners and restaurateurs throughout the country. With their established brand, OpenTable will be able to develop and market their payment services with relative ease. Currently their offering has limited features (no splitting checks) when compared to other players, but this is the company to watch out for. OpenTable’s emergence in NYC will seek to compete against Cover’s current grasp in the NYC and SF marketplace where it is currently used by over 100 restaurants. Cover has a much richer set of features – like check splitting. Its thoughtfully developed consumer experience has the potential to make OpenTable’s entrance into the market an uphill battle.
Other apps are close behind OpenTable and Cover. Emerging services like Dash and TabbedOut are also fighting to become the Uber of the restaurant world. The Wall Street Journal reported in an article a few months back that Amazon has been working on a handheld POS system while Apple is discussing methods of payment using their iPhones and iPads, already popular as POS devices. It seems like every week there’s a new entry into this already crowded space. But there are at least two huge problems. The problems can be summed up in two basic questions:
‘Will restaurants sign up for the service?’
These services require direct participation from restaurants. At the moment a restaurant may accept OpenTable, but not Cover (or vice versa.) While restaurants accept most major credit cards, the agreements are handled through merchant services. With the new payment apps a restaurant has to come to an agreement with each company individually. The fastest way to annoy a restaurateur is to complicate their day, so in our estimation this is a serious hurdle to widespread adoption.
‘Will consumers adopt these new services?’
So far the answer has been a very tepid “maybe” that leans toward a “no.” The New York Times reported “Many people are not aware of the new payment systems, others are confused by the many choices, and some see no benefit in the mobile option over using cash or credit cards.” For mobile payments to become the norm companies need to prove to consumers the value of using their phones as payment devices. With time, consumers may come around – just as cards replaced checks, phones may supplant cards.
Slowly but surely technology has crept into the restaurant industry. Registers became POS systems, the guest book became OpenTable, and the ledger moved to Quickbooks. But with the rise of consumer facing apps, restaurants are about to enter a whole new era. We at Poached have been interested in this subject for quite some time – after all, we’re part of the modernization of the restaurant industry. Here are a few apps we’ve seen that have a chance at changing the way restaurants do business – for better or for worse.
Cover – Consumer Facing Merchant Services (iOS and Android)
What it is:
Using Cover, customers can pay and even split their checks without taking time away from the restaurant staff. A user simply downloads the free app, dines at a participating restaurant (so far the service is only available in SF and NY) and informs their server they’re paying with Cover. At the end of the meal all the user needs to do is leave. The app automatically pays the bill (including a pre-selected tip percentage) using a credit card that Cover keeps on record.
The value to the customer is clear – convenience. The value-proposition to the restaurant is a little less apparent. According to Cover, the restaurant will save money, as the credit card processing fees are lower than standard merchant services. Cover has not to date stated what percentage they charge the restaurant, though they do claim merchant services fees range between 3.5% and 7% per transaction.
Should you buy in:
We worry that Cover will undermine an important moment – the friendly “thank you” that accompanies the check at the end of the meal. Because of this we see Cover being most effective for lunches and quick meals, despite their positioning of themselves in higher-end and fashionable restaurants. In the end this will come down to consumer usage: If enough of your customers start using the service, you’re wise to give participating some thought. Much in the same way that OpenTable has created a network effect, even to the point that some customers select restaurants based on whether or not OpenTable reservations are offered, Cover may become an important partner for restaurants.
Resy – Paid Reservations (iOS and Android)
What it is:
Resy is part of a larger movement in restaurant reservations. For a couple of years, almost entirely in NYC, certain restaurant reservations have been scalped by either unscrupulous or industrious individuals – depending on whether or not you’ve enjoyed an Ayn Rand novel. Diners paid a premium for tables in hot restaurants at peak times. The consumer paid more money, the restaurant got none of it, and tables became that much more scarce for the average diner.
Seeing an interesting opportunity, the creators of Resy came along with their entry into the Reservation Industrial Complex. Participating restaurants (currently only in NYC) will offer their hottest tables at peak hours for a price. Currently the premium runs between $10 and $50, with Resy taking a percentage of the transaction. Restaurants can now not only prevent scalping, but they can participate in the pay to play reservation market.
Should you buy in:
The concept has garnered a bit of attention, as the very premise of selling reservations has rubbed a number of people the wrong way. The central criticism is Resy, and services like it, take away from the hospitality aspects of dining. No one wants to bribe the maître d’ just to get a table away from the bathroom, and to institutionalize a ‘pay to get seated’ system is doubtlessly going to change the way guests feel about a restaurant. If a customer buys a reservation, won’t they feel differently about other aspects of their dining experience? Will they be pickier and quicker to complain?
Overall, we see this as a service that only certain restaurants should offer. If demand for your tables is so high that people are willing to pay extra for a table then it’s a no-brainer. But take a moment to consider how this extra revenue source is going to effect your guests’ perceptions of your restaurant.
Partender – Bar inventory (iOS only)
What it is:
Partender is a different beast entirely from Cover or Resy. Its function is to help make liquor inventory easier and more accurate. Whereas Cover and Resy are consumer facing, but dependent on restaurants for revenue, Partender makes money by trying to help bars and restaurants save money.
The system is simple: the user registers online, downloads the app and then sets up their account. The user performs the inventory by visually marking down the bottle’s fill level into the app. Once they’re done, Partender emails a finished inventory report with distributor and other information. When a user logs into the website, they’ll be able to look at a series of reports outlining their usage and inventory trends. For a full explanation, here’s a video.
Should you buy in:
Partender lands pretty clearly in the ‘clever’ category. I’ve done everything from weighing bottles before and after shifts, to guessing, to not doing inventories at all (and trust me, that third idea wasn’t one of my brightest). Partender gives restaurants and bars a better option, and could really impact a business’ bottom line. The only immediate problem we found was in trying to inventory a bottle of Hendrick’s gin, as it’s too dark to see the fill line. For the most part, we love the idea, especially the easy access to reports. Partender’s real advantage is its ability to make inventories not just quicker, but more useful.
So, should you buy in? If the $99/month ($79/month if you agree to a year long contract) is less than your shrinkage (and I bet it is) than you should really consider working with Partender.
Bar guides come and go, but occasionally one comes along that proves itself among bartenders as a real compendium of their craft. One example is American Bar by Charles Schumann. More recently, everyone got a bit excited about the PDT Cocktail Book. But now there is another book that looks destined to take a space on every bartender’s shelf – Jeffery Morgenthaler’s The Bar Book (Chronicle Books).
The premise of the book is simple – technique matters. Instead of having a chapter on each spirit that includes a whimsical story of being “behind the stick” and a few choice cocktail recipes, Morgenthaler (along with co-author Martha Holmberg) has written a guide for those looking to up their game in a very real way. A bartender can have a great recipe, and pick out the finest ingredients on the shelf and still serve an awful drink. Really, while all great cocktails require a balance of recipe, ingredients and technique, the last is the hardest to learn, and thusly the one least discussed in shelf after shelf of cocktail books.
An example of the exacting nature of The Bar Book can be found in a two-page spread (complete with charts) that debunks some commonly held beliefs on juicing lemons. Some hold that to get the most juice from a lemon it should be rolled and pressed against the bar while others say it should be chilled. Some claim it should be warmed, and still others hold the secret to getting the most juice is some combination thereof. Rather than just pass on some conventional wisdom, Morgenthaler sets up an experiment to compare the output of four different groups of lemons. Each group was treated in a specific way prior to juicing, leaving us with a definitive last word on the best methodology. I’d tell you the results, but I’d hate to spoil a good story (Snape kills Dumbledore).
While this makes The Bar Book a far geekier option than most, it’s still written in a cool and conversational (and notably PG-13) style. A reader will be treated to concise information about the stems and stylars of limes, impassioned asides about the superiority of the metric system and how many units of energy are required to properly chill a cocktail (about 80 calories.) This might sound too geeky, but really it’s just right when mixed with Morgenthaler’s writing. One can almost imagine him making your drinks while explaining the differences between a Boston and a Parisian shaker, all with a sly and likable smile.
A reader is going to find a lot of useful information in The Bar Book. I learned the true origins of the Tom Collins (originally called a Tim Collins, but after being modified to use Old Tom gin it was given its modern name), how to make tonic water (this alone is worth the price of admission; Morgenthaler’s tonic recipe has long been central to his notoriety, but he turns his back on his former recipe for something quite a bit better), and a master class on ice (a section that should be required reading for anyone considering a career in bartending).
It would’ve been a lot easier for Morgenthaler to just look up (or make up) some cocktail history, put together some recipes and call it a day. Instead he’s put together a thoughtful guide to bartending that focuses on the actual bartending. There’s long been need of a book that doesn’t just tell you to stir a drink or to shake it, but one that tells you why and how to do it properly. If this book reduces the number of hard-shaken Manhattans, then the world has been made a better place.
And this is what makes this book work over so many others – it’s earnest. Morgenthaler wants to cut through the “b.s.” and teach us all how to make better drinks. The Bar Book never comes off as preachy or superior – instead it feels as open and gracious as a good bartender. While some bartenders have become more like the record store clerks in High Fidelity, Jeffery Morgenthaler just wants people to make better drinks and maybe even learn something in the process.