• 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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  • 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 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

  • ‘Cue, Cocktails And Cake For Memorial Day

    anejoAh, summer. You can feel it coming (here in Norcal, it barely left). But for the rest of the country, we gather that this summer will be particularly welcome. Now, we all know that summer isn’t “official” until the solstice, but around here (and hopefully where you are) summer starts on Memorial Day. And Memorial Day is “opening day” on the farm for weekend barbecue, big pitchers of punches and highballs and lots of dessert. So here are a few links to recipes we think you may want to try this weekend and into the summer (and don’t worry, they are well-tested).

    porkOur favorite summer meals almost all include real, low-and-slow barbecue (we also like steamer clams and lobster rolls, but those are for another post). And our favorite for Memorial Day remains Pulled Pork. We post a link to this recipe every Memorial Day for a reason, it rocks. Pulled pork is inexpensive, easy, feeds an army and tastes great. The only thing you need is time. For the best results you need to plan ahead a day or two- so get started!

    ribsIf you are worried about time, then Memphis-Style Ribs are the way to go. These ribs still benefit from a little extra prep time, but they are easily a one day meal. And, sooooo good. Trust us, make extra.

    brisketFinally, if beef is your thing, then Franklin Style Brisket is a real treat. Again, you get a great dish for a crowd, you just need to take the time to do it right. (We jumped the gun on summer and made this last weekend for some good friends, and it is still one of the best things going).

    fleurIf you happen to imbibe (and we hope you do), summer is the best time for easy punches or highballs. These are drinks that keep you and your guests outside, and not inside mixing drinks all the time. Our favorite summer punch is the Nouvelle Fleur, a sparkling tequila, citrus, St. Germain and Aperol concoction. This drink packs big, thirst-quenching flavors, but is relatively low-strength. Great for sipping.

    laniIf you want an easy punch, but with more, umm… “punch”, then we suggest the Lani Honi. This is a simple mix of white rum, lemon and Benedictine. But even with just three ingredients, the flavors are full and complex. Good stuff and easy to mix in a pitcher.

    monkFor those who like tall, cool summer cocktails, we always suggest bucks like The Kentucky Buck or Kentucky Monk. And for those who like riffs on classics, we love the Upside Down Martini, using vinho verde in place of dry vermouth. Crisp, cold and delightful. Continue reading