• Timber & Salt Greatest Hits: The Flora Cocktail

    IMG_0316This is blog #1 of what we hope will be a regular feature, sharing some of our most popular cocktail and food recipes from our restaurant, Timber & Salt in Redwood City California.

    And, of course, we have to start with our most popular seasonal cocktail recipe, the Flora. How do we know it is the most popular? Well, we have POS data that tells us everything we sell and the Flora is our all-time top-selling seasonal cocktail (Brian Matulis, our bar manager and partner, changes the cocktail list every season). Our Aged Rum Old Fashioned is the overall top-seller, but it never leaves the list. Meanwhile, the Flora was only on the menu for about three months when we opened, but has devoted fans and is ordered regularly.

    It may surprise you, but the Flora is a Gin-based cocktail. Most people would expect a Vodka-based cocktail to be the most popular (and they are popular), but it just goes to show that a unique, flavorful and attractive cocktail will sell regardless the base spirit…umm ok, Mezcal is still tough- but we are working on it.

    So what’s in the Flora? The Flora features London Dry Gin, Kina L’aero D’or (a “kina” or quinquina- see below), grapefruit, lemon and honey syrup. It is served up in a coupe and garnished with an edible flower. And it does look good. It also tastes very good. The Flora is a type of gin “sour”, and you do get the lemon and gin up front (nothing wrong with that). But the use of grapefruit and honey along with the Kina add herbal and floral dimensions along with a slightly bitter finish that pleasantly cleanses the palate (the Flora excels when served with food). The extra complexity also makes for a cocktail that tastes just as good on the first sip as the last.

    IMG_0306So what is a “kina” or “quinquina”? Kinas are basically a type of aperitif or aromatized wine that features Chinchona bark, the basis of quinine. So if you imagine a vermouth or aperitif with bittersweet, fruity and herbal notes and finishing with a slightly medicinal or tonic-like taste, you would be close to a kina. We are fans of Tempus Fugit’s Kina L’aero D’or, but other kinas include Lillet Blanc and Cocchi Americano (both good and widely available).

    Unsurprisingly, kinas feature in a few classic gin cocktails like the Corpse Reviver #2 and the 20th Century. Lillet is also an ingredient in the (loved/hated) James Bond cocktail, the Vesper. So if you are waffling on buying a kina to make drinks, you now have at least three good recipes to try out. Not to mention, good kinas are lovely aperitifs on their own, just serve them chilled or on the rocks, perhaps with a lemon or orange twist, maybe sit in the sun and read the paper…

    We hope you enjoy the Flora Cocktail and we will be back soon with another of our “Greatest Hits”.

    The Flora Cocktail

    • 1.5 oz. London Dry Gin (Tanqueray)
    • .75 oz. quinquina (Kina L’aero D’or)
    • .75 oz. grapefruit juice
    • .5 oz. lemon juice
    • .5 oz. honey syrup (1:1 hot water to honey)

    Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker, shake until very cold and then double-strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with an edible flower.

     

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  • Timber & Salt Year 3: Finally (Really) Using the Garden / Farm

    Hi there. We are “back” after a long, work-induced pause in our blogging. We are planning to blog again more regularly and hopefully post new things from the farm and some “greatest hits” from our restaurant, Timber & Salt. (Timber & Salt is in the awesome town of Redwood City, in Silicon Valley, btw).

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    Isaac’s Wild Oregon Cod with Butter Bean Ragout, a very good dish from earlier this winter.

    In any event, we are well into our third year running Timber & Salt. Happily we can say the food, drinks and service have never been better. We are very busy, reviews are good and the business is a going concern- so we aren’t going anywhere. Just the other day Brian Matulis, our bar manager / partner, and I realized that we have already lasted well beyond the expected “expiration date” of most new restaurants. We enjoyed that for about five seconds and then got back to work.

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    Melanie Ralston- one of Brian’s more popular creations (Vodka, Bonal, Cherry Heering, lime)

    So how did we get to our third year? After a good, but somewhat frantic “bumpy” start, operations at the restaurant finally started to get truly “settled” late in our second year. We brought on Isaac Miller, an experienced chef from a critically acclaimed restaurant in San Francisco called Maven. (Not surprisingly, Maven specializes in seasonal California cuisine that compliments craft cocktails…sound familiar?) Isaac’s management of the kitchen complimented Brian’s already successful bar program and we finally got the restaurant close to what we imagined when we started this project over five (!) years ago.  And that feels pretty good, but there is one big thing left to address.

    You see we have this “Farm”.  At one point it was a really a big garden. But over the last few years we have an experienced friend (Daniel) helping us, and the garden has expanded to the point that it is getting truly “farm-like”. When you have 30+ fruit trees, 10 raised beds, and 4 large open plots, all on a schedule- it starts to feel like a farm (large, organized garden?). And when you have a farm and a restaurant, well, you want to serve up some of that fresh, seasonal, local produce in innovative, tasty dishes and cocktails.

    Not to say we haven’t been using produce from the farm at Timber & Salt for the last few years, we have. In no particular order, we consistently use our Meyer lemons, lime leaves, mint, chives, thyme and basil in both the bar and kitchen. We also get lovely “spurts” of tomatoes, squash, greens, onions, radishes, strawberries and stone fruits that make for great eating (and, in some cases, drinking). But overall, the availability of our produce has been inconsistent, at best.

    But this year, weather permitting, we have a plan. Our team is working with Daniel and we aim to have a consistent (and abundant) supply of herbs, tomatoes, squash and stone fruit throughout the summer and fall. And we hope to consistently feature some of the best tasting, and truly “local” produce at Timber & Salt over the next few months.

    This will not be easy. It’s one thing to plant some stuff that you harvest once a year (past readers may recall dozens of blog posts about what to do with produce from your garden when you get it all at once). But for the restaurant, we are staggering planting times and varietals to make for a longer season and harvest. We expect that this will be a “learning” year…but even with some fits and starts we will have a lot of tasty food to enjoy and share.

    We will keep everyone posted on our progress and also let everyone know when dishes at the restaurant are featuring some truly “just-picked” produce. Meanwhile, here are a few pics….

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    Some of the hundreds of tomato plants we are planting.

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    Spring onions….no too impressive to look at, but very sweet and with way more flavor.

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    Tree Collards. These are so good they may not make it to the restaurant….just our kitchen.

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    Lettuces, herbs and chard.

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    White peaches early in their growth. The trees are specially trimmed and tied for easy access.

     

     

  • So We Opened A Bar And Restaurant….

    Timber&SaltFinalWhite….it’s called Timber & Salt. It’s in Redwood City California (a very cool town). We serve craft cocktails and artisan comfort foods with fresh seasonal ingredients (sound familiar?). We have a strong, experienced team and are off to a great start with plenty of regular customers. And we are more than a little tired…but very, very happy.

    So now back to blogging. Please pardon our silence of the last few months, but at least we have an excuse. There are few things quite like opening a restaurant. It is a very involved process to build a restaurant from the ground up- normally you buy your first restaurant but we couldn’t pass up our location. It is in the center of town, next to the movie theater, a block from the train station and across from a new office development with parking, oh, and did I mention the sidewalk seating area? Yup, just had to do it….

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    Rio Star Cocktail

    So you wanna know what you need to do to build and open a restaurant? Here we go: take a very deep breath, convince your spouse it is a good idea, get a decent lawyer, form an LLC, recruit your core team of experienced bar and restaurant managers, build a deal structure that works for all stakeholders (takes a while), scout 15+ locations, buy a place and have the deal fall apart, find a better location but you need to build, negotiate the lease terms for eight months (yes, eight months and that is considered “fast”), match the concept to the location and size of the space, get a good architect / builder, get an interior designer (you need one, you really do), do a real business plan with financials, sign the lease (deep breath, avoid panic), raise money, make sure you have an accountant, submit plans to the town and landlord, revise/repeat, select your builder, start buildout, buy furnishings, buy equipment and smallwares, start real menu development with team, set up accounts with multiple government agencies, finish basic buildout, start recruiting your staff, select and install a good POS system, select a merchant payment solution, fill out dozens of credit applications for suppliers (be ready to sign your life away), buy a ton of food and booze, buy all sorts of extra stuff you didn’t expect, train your team, install your furnishings and fixtures, do a few weeks of warmup and catering events, pass all of your inspections, tune the menus, set an opening date (another deep breath), open the doors and say a little prayer…..then smile, welcome your guests and make them feel at home.

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    Smoked Trout & Salmon Salad With Ecopia Microgreens

    And that last one is key. We are in the hospitality business because we truly believe that time spent breaking bread with our friends and family is the most important time in our lives. We opened Timber & Salt because nothing is better than sharing that feeling of hospitality and welcome with our community. Every time a customer walks in to a welcoming host, smiles at the look of the room (a room without a TV, btw), relaxes with a cocktail at the bar, waves at friends when they arrive, then shares a good meal mixed with laughter and conversation is a small victory for civility. Our hearts rise. (Of course, we are crushed when we fall short, but we never stop trying to improve). In our minds, there is no better business to be in, even if it is hard work. And let’s face it, anything done well and with real commitment requires hard work.

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    Bacon-Wrapped Dates, One of our most popular dishes. They go great with cocktails.

    Moving forward, we will be blogging and sharing more stories, images and recipes from here at the farm, but also the restaurant. We hope you join us “virtually” here at the blog, but also visit us in the “real” world at Timber & Salt. Now for some photos of the food and booze, and look out for more posts with new photos and recipes!

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    Black Pepper Quail Salad. Moving off the menu now, but will come back with warmer seasons.

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    “Ham & Cheese”. Cheddar gougeres and ham consomme.

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    Aged Rum Old Fashioned. Our flagship cocktail. Aged rum, Mauby Syrup (house made Caribbean spiced syrup), twist, big rock. Perfect.

     

  • Mixology Monday C Cocktail: The Hoffman House

    DSC_0372Wow, 100 Mixology Mondays. In this day and age of instant online popularity and even faster irrelevance, a hundred of anything seems significant. And one hundred global online cocktail parties is even more outstanding….it seems good booze has some real staying power in popular culture. And that’s a good thing, as we cocktail-loving folk are always trying to keep both the grumpy teetotalers and Fireball-drinking, whipped cream vodka chugging heathen at bay…..just kidding (not really).

    mxmologoThe other special thing about Mixology Monday C is that our founder, Paul Clarke of the Cocktail Chronicles blog, and now the truly awesome book, may join us once again. Pretty cool. And we have to thank both Paul and Fred Yarm of Cocktail Virgin Slut for keeping the party going- they truly are key players in the modern cocktail renaissance. Again, pretty cool.

    Seeing as how we have a bit of a milestone MxMo, Fred Yarm is hosting, and he looks to Paul’s new book for inspiration. And we think they found the perfect theme of “elegance”. Here is the summary:

    But what does Mixology Monday “Cocktail Chronicles” mean? I figured that we should look to Paul’s magnum opus and digest the theme of it all — what is timeless (or potentially timeless) and elegant in its simplicity. Paul commented in his interview, “[it]’s wonderful to see that level of creativity but simplicity is going to be the glue that continues to hold interest in the cocktail together. The moment that we make cocktails too difficult or too inaccessible to the average guest, the average consumer, then we start losing people.” Paul does support a minor tweak of a major classic as well as dusting off a lesser known vintage recipe like the Creole Contentment; in addition, proto-classics like the Chartreuse Swizzle and the Penicillin intrigue him for their potential to be remembered twenty years from now. Moreover, he is a big fan of the story when there is one whether about a somewhat novel ingredient like a quinquina, the bartender making it, or the history behind a cocktail or the bar from which it originated. Indeed, I quoted Paul as saying, “If I write about these and manage to make them boring, then I have done an incredible disservice. So I feel an incredible obligation not only to the drinks themselves, but to the bartenders who created them, and also to the heritage oSo for this theme, channel your inner Paul Clarke. Think about simplicity, elegance, and timelessness to the point that you would not feel strange about drinking and writing about this at MxMo M.f cocktail writing to try to elevate it.”

    So for this theme, channel your inner Paul Clarke. Think about simplicity, elegance, and timelessness to the point that you would not feel strange about drinking and writing about this at MxMo M.

    We couldn’t pick a better theme, although this one made us a bit sad. Why? Because we immediately knew exactly what cocktail we would feature, the Hoffman House. If stranded on a desert island with only one cocktail choice, this would be it. Yes, we thought (and perhaps drank) long and hard looking at other choices, but there was never really any doubt. 

    DSC_0349In case you are unfamiliar, the Hoffman House is a classic Martini variant named after one of the best of New York’s cocktail palaces of the late 19th / early 20th centuries. It is truly a simple and elegant creation. 2 parts Plymouth gin, 1 part dry vermouth, 2 dashes orange bitters and a lemon twist. Serve up. Act like Nick and Nora Charles. Repeat. Act like their dog Asta. Repeat….um, well, maybe not.

    DSC_0351Too much vermouth you say? Hogwash. Try it with good, fresh vermouth and you will never go back to “dry” Martinis.  Prefer olives? Nope, with orange bitters you need a lemon twist- and you will be stunned at the brightness of the citrus and herbal flavors.

    DSC_0356The only change we suggest you try is going away from 82-proof Plymouth and to a London Dry gin of 94 proof for a big, clean kick. We like Brokers or Beefeater (USA version) here, but the clean (almost soft) Plymouth is still delightful. And if you make a pitcher of Martinis, the Hoffman House with Plymouth is a true crowd pleaser…just make sure your guests know about Uber, this drink goes down way too easy. 

    Oh, and did we note The Hoffman House is just beautiful to look at? Again, simplicity and elegance often lead to true beauty.

    DSC_0365So thanks again to Paul and Fred for creating and hosting another MxMo. Let’s hope we do see MxMo M….

    The Hoffman House Cocktail:

    Ingredients:

    • 2 oz. Plymouth gin (or a crisp London Dry gin like Brokers or Beefeater)
    • 1 oz. Dry Vermouth (Dolin)
    • 2 dashes orange bitters (Regan’s)
    • Lemon twist

    Assemble:

    1. Place all liquid ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir until very well-chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass or coupé. Give the lemon peel a very good twist over the cocktail and add to the drink. Serve.

    Continue reading

  • Mixology Monday XCIX Cocktail: The Reef Pass

    reefWe had to laugh out loud when we saw this month’s Mixology Monday theme was “Ice” (kindly hosted by our friend the Muse of Doom at the excellent Feu de Vie Blog). You see, as our bar/restaurant Timber & Salt nears its opening in September, we are spending a lot of time on ice. Ice is a key ingredient in cocktails, and there is no substitute- you need the right ice for the right drink. But more on that later, here is the rundown for the 99th (!) Mixology Monday:

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    And in all this time there hasn’t once been a theme dedicated to that undersung-yet-essential part of nearly any cocktail: ICE. The word says it all. Big ice cubes for Old Fashioneds, pellet ice for juleps and cobblers, shaved ice for adult snowcones, crushed ice molded into a cone for a classic Navy Grog. The art of the blender. Tell us why your selected or invented cocktail needs this particular ice usage. Show us how to make perfectly clear ice at home or what you get to work with as a professional drink-slinger. It doesn’t even have to be pure H2O, either. Flavor it up! Teas, juices, liqueurs, bitters, other frozen edible objects serving as ice. Tell us the nuances of a properly-made Il Palio. Show us why a decorative approach takes your recipe to the next level. Whatever tickles your tastebuds and refreshes you this summer.

    reef4Perfect. In this summer alone we compared all commercial ice machines in mind-numbing great detail, made crystal clear ice (using the igloo method, it works very well), made almost-instant ice balls using a Japanese mold (a great show), used long ice sticks for Collins-style drinks (very cool) and experimented with the best way to get crushed ice for summer tiki drinks. And since crushed ice is our latest experiment, that’s what we will use here.

    reef1reef2And while some tiki drink recipes specifically call for blenders (and at the restaurant we may go this way), we usually prefer to use our cheap (about $20) manual ice crusher at home. Ours does both fine (tiki) and coarse (juleps and cobblers) chop, works well enough and is easy to clean. The blade apparatus comes apart occasionally, but it is easy to reassemble and it makes for a rocking tiki drink without fussing with a blender. And you really do need crushed ice for a good tiki drink, that frosted glass (along with a good dose of rum) just seems to make everything better.

    So what drink did we make? It turns out that we have tons of mint and basil in our garden this summer and we tend to freely substitute both in many of our savory preparations, so why not try it in a tiki drink? We already know that a touch of herbal flavor can enhance tiki drinks, so we took the next step.

    reef3The Reef Pass is basically a Mai Tai variant using amaro instead of simple syrup and basil instead of mint. We went with one of our favorite amaro, Santa Maria al Monte, a bittersweet and heavily herbal amaro similar to Fernet Branca, but with less overt mint/menthol notes. We also went for two strong, funky rums (Appleton V/X and El Dorado 15) that have enough flavor to match the amaro.

    How did it turn out? Extremely well. The Reef Pass does make you think Mai Tai, as the rum, lime, orgeat and Curaçao all shine through. But the basil on the nose and the slightly bitter and herbal finish of the amaro make for a very clean refreshing sip. (Surprisingly, the lime and amaro play particularly well together and we will continue to experiment here.) If you think tiki drinks are too sweet or cloying after a few sips, the Reef Pass is a good antidote. This one we are still making and enjoying. And we are always using our perfectly crushed ice…..that frosty glass never gets old. Continue reading

  • A Cocktail Experiment With Ash Apothecary Flavored Syrups

    ashFull disclosure; cocktail-oriented folks send us all sorts of cool spirits, bitters, flavorings and gear to try out here at the farm. We make no promises, but if we like an ingredient or tool we use/mention it in our posts (and always disclose the source). That said, we almost never do a full post on something that is sent to us…until now.

    But when the team at Ash Apothecary from Brooklyn (they have a kickstarter, btw) offered to send us some flavored syrups, we looked at their flavors and decided to give them a try. And we are very impressed with what they sent- enough to run an experiment making easy, but deeply flavored, riffs on sours and tiki drinks using their syrups.

    ash5ash6So why would “farmers” like us use someone else’s syrups vs. making our own? Firstly, the syrups are excellent, with clear and creative flavors. Secondly, consistency can be hard to maintain at home. There is a reason bartenders most often use quality ingredients from good suppliers, rather than DIY- good products taste the same every time. And finally, we all get lazy…or just ARE lazy.

    But not so lazy that we wouldn’t try a boozy experiment. A few of the syrups like Chocolate and Chai Masala were faves in coffee and tea, and we love the rose syrup but can’t quite figure out what to use it with (still trying..). However, when we saw Lavender Bud, Honey and Ginger, Cafe De Olla and Winter Spice syrups, we knew exactly what to do…make a few sours (and think tiki, as well).

    ash4The key here is to pull out the syrups, a bottle of dry gin and a decent bottle of rum. We went with Brokers, a traditional dry gin, and Flor de Cana 4 yr. a quality (but affordable) gold rum. Then we got some limes, lemons and a grapefruit and started mixing. Generally gin will go with floral and lighter spice, while aged rum can handle bigger flavors/spices. Gin likes lemon and lime, rum likes lime and grapefruit. We started with a ratio of 2 oz. spirit, 1 oz. sour and 1/2 to 3/4 oz. syrup, and commenced with the mixing/tasting.

    What did we come up with? Firstly, the Honey and Ginger syrup works with both the gin/ lemon and rum/lime . Too easy. As for the Lavender Bud, well, you know we like lavender, gin and lemon- and this was great, all herbal gin, lemon and bright lavender (and no soapy flavors you can get with some floral syrups or liqueurs).

    ash1Next we dug deep into the “archives” and remembered one of our favorite lost cocktails, the Port Antonio; a rum, lime, falernum and coffee liqueur cocktail (awesome, btw). Since the Cafe de Olla syrup is a mix of spices and coffee we know we had a fit. A simple combo of the rum, lime and syrup was delightful riff on a Daiquiri with a backbone of coffee that works way better than you might expect- try it.

    Finally we had the Winter Spice syrup, which tastes a lot like Allspice Dram, but without the booze. Spices go with tiki, so we did a riff on a Jet Pilot using the rum, grapefruit, lime and syrup. Perfectly tiki, but very easy…and very good.

    ash2So thanks to the team at Ash Apothecary for giving us, yet another, excuse to enjoy more cocktails!