• 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.

     

     

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  • Still Green…..

    may10Yes, we have a drought. And yes, we have cut our water use (and our water bill) quite a bit. But the Farm is still green…with splashes of color. And we are very, very grateful for the sprinkles of spring rain that keep coming. But if we don’t get more rain this winter, things may not be so green next year.may5

    may2mayMeanwhile, we have plenty of herbs, raspberries (so good we just eat them in the field), strawberries, blueberries, cabbage and a forest of kale. Our Meyer lemon supply seems limitless and we even have a few Eurekas. Lots of lemon-based cocktails this summer….and this spring.

    may4may3may1Sadly, it didn’t get cold enough this winter for many of our stone fruit trees. No cold in winter, no fruit in summer. We may get a few peaches, but no cherries. Such is life. Happily, the farmers markets are teeming with early cherries and peaches. Seems that it did get cold enough in the Central Valley.

    may6may7may9Looking ahead we have tomatoes, spinach, squash and zucchini, eggplant, beans and collard greens on the way. Nothing goes with summer barbecue like collards. Can’t wait for summer…may8

  • Bonus Cocktail: The Fourth Degree

    fourth10How do you know when you have officially become a cocktail geek? (Besides, you know…blogging about them.) Well, there are a few signs; multiple bottles of bitters, obsession with vintage glassware, too much gin and very little vodka, rum from at least 6 different Caribbean countries and the obligatory bottle(s) of absinthe are all reliable signs. Throw in some Falernum and Fernet and it is pretty clear that you, my friend, are a cocktail geek.

    fourthBut there is another major sign that you have gone over to the dark side (and, let’s face it, some of us enjoy it over here). Vermouth. If you have multiple bottles of vermouth and they are (hopefully) in the fridge, then you are probably a cocktail geek. And if you actually mix, match and test different recipes with different vermouth, then you are definitely a cocktail geek. Welcome.

    fourth2But even if you aren’t a cocktail geek (yet) we do suggest that all educated drinkers keep a good bottle each of sweet and dry vermouth. Keep them in the fridge, and use them often. Each brand has its charms and we suggest you experiment. And beyond the basic Martini and Manhattan, there are many experiments worth trying. We suggest the Fourth Degree be one of your first experiments.

    fourth8We will forgo some of the history (the drink, with differing recipes, is found in the Savoy and Imbibe!), but the Fourth Degree is a classic from the “golden age” of pre-prohibition cocktails. It lands somewhere between the Martinez (the proto-Martini) and the classic “wet” Martini. Not surprisingly, it uses gin and vermouth. But in this case, equal amounts of gin and both sweet and dry vermouth- along with a dash of absinthe and a lemon twist.

    fourth4Now you may say “meh”, but we suggest you try the Fourth Degree before you judge it. The drink is a bit sweet, but the flavors are deep, multi-layered and complex. You will get herbal and anise notes, but also surprising hints of fruit, chocolate and almond. The aroma of herbs and lemon peel is just as delightful. And, due to the large proportion of vermouth, the drink isn’t too strong. Go ahead and have another…

    fourth9The Fourth Degree is also a recipe that welcomes experimentation. Many have made the drink dryer with a larger proportion of gin, and that is very good. You can also play with the vermouth. Changing the sweet vermouth from M&R to Carpano Antica to Dolin to Vya will make for a substantially different drink. As will changes with the dry vermouth (we like Dolin and Vya here). But, of course, to truly experiment you need to collect a bunch of vermouth….hmmm….see what we mean?

    The Fourth Degree Cocktail:

    Ingredients:

    • 3/4 oz. dry gin
    • 3/4 oz. dry vermouth
    • 3/4 oz. sweet vermouth
    • 4 dashes (1 tsp.) absinthe
    • Lemon twist

    Assemble:

    1. Add all the liquid ingredients to a cocktail glass with ice and stir until well-chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass or coupé. Garnish with the lemon twist. Serve.
  • Monthly Cocktail #2: The Case For A True Mai-Tai

    MaiTaiThe Putney Farm crew recently returned from a delightful trip to Kauai. All good, nothing to complain about…but, maybe…um…there was one little thing. And it has to do with the classic Tiki drink, the Mai Tai.

    maitai2You see, the problem was that while we were served a number of “Mai-Tais” on the trip, the only real Mai Tai we had was at home (of course we stocked a decent bar in Kauai!). Not to say there was anything wrong with the many fruity-dark rum floater-bamboo cup-multiple garnish catastrophes “creations” we drank. Hey, its rum, lime, pineapple and a bunch of other stuff- how bad can it be? And usually it isn’t all that bad. However…maitai8

    maitai3A real Mai Tai, made with the right ingredients and in the right way, is just so much better. There is a reason everyone thinks “tiki” when they hear the word Mai Tai, it is a damn fine drink. Sweet, tart, funky with a nutty “I-know-not-what” at the finish, the Mai Tai is a perfect example of what makes cocktails so special. It is way more than the sum of its parts.

    maitai4So what about those “parts”? The other good thing about the Mai Tai is that the only truly esoteric ingredient is Orgeat (pronounced or-zhay) syrup, basically almond (and sometime apricot kernels) flavored syrup with some orange flower water. You can find Orgeat in many liquor stores or make your own. We have done both. Here is a well-known recipe to make it yourself. Small Hands makes a natural version that is very tasty, but the artificially (gasp!) flavored versions from Trader Vic and Fees taste just fine.

    maitai5Otherwise you need just a few other ingredients; fresh lime juice, triple sec, sugar syrup, a light grassy rum (rhum agricole is good), a dark funky rum, a sprig of mint and some crushed ice…..and a few extra minutes to make the drink.

    As for the rum, experts like Beachbum Berry and Rumdood all suggest an equal combination of Appleton 12 year (for the dark, funky notes) and Rhum Clement VSOP (aged, but still bright and a bit grassy) as the “standard”. And we agree. But we also like to play around and find other dark rums like El Dorado 8, 12 and 15 are all good (inexpensive) subs for the Appleton 12. We also think you can sub rhum Barbancourt (3 or 5 star) for the Clement, if the Clement is hard to find.

    maitai6Triple sec? We like Cointreau, but many suggest Clement Creole Shrub. Use what you like. Crushed ice? Trust us, it looks better and dilutes the drink properly. Mint Spring? Adds a bright note to the aroma of the drink, and it looks good. So does the lime shell. Got it? Good!

    Finally, one note on the history of the Mai Tai. While cocktail geeks historians quibble about the details, Trader Vic Bergeron made this version of the drink famous (even if Don the beachcomber made something else with the same name earlier). And Vic was a Bay Area guy, so we will stick with our man and tip our caps to Vic for this delightful sip. Now go make one before the summer is over!

    maitai1The Mai Tai:

    Ingredients:

    • 1 oz. dark(er), funky rum (Appleton 12 or El Dorado 8, 12, 15)
    • 1 oz. light(er) rum (Clement VSOP, rhum Barbancourt)
    • 3/4 oz. lime juice
    • 1/2 oz. orgeat syrup
    • 1/2 oz. triple sec
    • 1/4 oz. simple syrup
    • Mint sprig, for garnish

    Assemble:

    1. Using a blender, ice crusher or lewis bag, crush a bunch of ice.
    2. Add all the liquid ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice. Reserve the lime shell. Shake until well chilled.
    3. In a lowball glass, add the crushed ice and the lime shell. Stain the cocktail into the glass and garnish with the mint spring. Enjoy. Repeat.