Monday, March 28, 2011

Setting the Bar

Assietes of crudo for the Restaurant R'evolution bar
We’re in the midst of formulating the cocktail and food programs for Restaurant R'evolution's bar. We’re tentatively calling it “Bar R’evolution” – what do you think? We’re in what I call “think tank mode” right now, generating and polishing up our ideas, which we’ll present to the team in tastings next month. The bar menu will offer seasonal, market-driven cocktails with a pre-Prohibition theme, great wines by the glass, artisan beers, and its own food menu. Molly Wismeier, our director of wine and spirits, has been working closely with us to develop the beverage side, and she‘s going to give you a little sneak preview of that this week.

Andouille black sea salt potato chips for the R'evolution bar

My focus, with John and our chef Jody Denton, has been on the food, which will include small plates, crudos, and salumi. Think playful. Things like house made potato chips with black sea salt flavored with andouille sausage, assietes of crudo, our own spins on some classic NOLA dishes like crawfish balls and a pot de crème that’s infused with all of the flavors of a traditional crab boil. We’re really playing with the flavors of New Orleans in fun new ways that we think will be appealing with the drinks that Molly is concocting.
Smoked sea trout panzanella for R'evolution bar
On a more personal note, something has been on my mind recently during this bar-focused piece of the process that I want to share. I’ve been thinking about how I approach the bar as someone who has struggled with addiction in my past. Maybe it’s because this chapter of the restaurant development process has fortuitously aligned with the release of my memoir, Scars of a Chef, which openly shares some of the struggles I’ve had with addiction in my life. It’s been a really important part of my evolution as a chef to realize that I can treat wine and spirits like food. It’s about tasting and appreciating, not consuming. Nowadays when I taste wine or spirits, I’m not tempted to overdo it the way I was tempted by drugs and these things in my youth. It’s not a battle anymore. But then again, I also know that I can’t sit there and taste ten cocktails in a row either. I have a very healthy respect for my sobriety, so I’m very aware and cognizant of my limits.
Another important lesson I’ve learned is that I’m better off leaving most of this piece of the puzzle to others. I’m all about the food part of it, understanding what the flavor profiles need to be in order to match up well with the wine and the cocktails. But at the end of the day, I leave a lot of the beverage piece itself to the experts, like Molly. And with someone as talented as her in charge, I know we’re in good hands. Again, watch for more on the drinks from Molly this week.
- Rick

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