1) Alpha and Omega at Tavola Cicchetti Bar. “Perfection in a glass. I love this drink so much that my husband John and I served a version of it at our wedding. The brown-butter washed sherry is unreal. Delicate, warm, and bright at the same time.”
2) Hawaiian Plate with BBQ Chicken, Mac Salad, and Cucumber Kimchi from Mochiko. “I grew up in southern California, and one thing I miss about it is its proximity to Hawaii. That’s why I was so excited to hear about Riki’s stand at the market (and eventually his brick and mortar at 5th street station). You can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, but the BBQ chicken is my favorite. I always ask for extra furikake seasoning on the side—and grab some Hawaiian Sun punch and spam musubis on the way out.”
3) Da Vinci Sandwich from Mona Lisa Pasta. “The real star of this sandwich is the three-seeded baguette coated in what I’m pretty sure is a mixture of fennel seeds, poppy seeds, and sesame seeds (though I always eat it too quickly to know for sure). A perfect balance of salami, soppressata, provolone, tomato, greens, house dressing, and sun-dried tomato pesto. In a town with a lot of amazing sandwiches, it’s my favorite one to introduce to people.”
4) Garganelli Alla Zucca at Tavola. “I actually learned about this dish on a recipe blog, someone visiting from Texas had eaten this at Tavola and created a recipe inspired by it. Once I ordered the original in person I fell in love. The crispy sage and caramelized red onions take it over the top.”
5) Almond Pave Cake from Paradox Pastry. “Four simple ingredients – almond flour, butter, eggs, sugar. Dense, buttery goodness. It’s my birthday cake every year and I have been known to eat it for breakfast.”
Rebecca Edwards, of Tavola Cicchetti Bar, has reached the National Finals in the United States Bartenders’ Guild annual World Class bartending competition, sponsored by Diageo. The competition “attracts the country’s best bartenders who represent the craft and elevation of the art of cocktail creation,” says the USBG, “with the ultimate goal of representing the U.S. at the global competition.”
To reach the National Finals, Edwards first had to qualify for the Regional Finals, as determined by an expert panel’s review of a large pool of applicants’ essays and cocktail recipes. Edwards entered the Hestia, which is currently on the cocktail menu at Tavola. It is Zacapa 23 rum, amontillado sherry, coffee liqueur, lemon, and burnt sugar, smoked with applewood.
On the strength of her cocktail and essays, Edwards became one of just ten finalists to reach our area’s Regional Finals, April 28-30 in Minneapolis. There, she competed in three rounds against the best in our region, judged on drink quality, hospitality, presentation, technique, and creativity. First, in the “signature” challenge, entrants created a cocktail inspired by Scotland, host of the this year’s Global Finals. Next, in the “single ingredient” challenge, each entrant chose a single ingredient inspired by their home region, and had to use every part of it to make twists on classic cocktails. From Virginia, Edwards used peanuts, and invented a peanut martini, a peanut margarita, and a peanut old fashioned. Finally, in the “lightening round” challenge, entrants had eight minutes to make six original cocktails, four of which are created in advance, and two of which must be dealer’s choice, invented on the spot. Edwards finished with a full minute to spare.
The National Finals are June 8-11 in Lexington, and if Edwards were to win that, she’d be off to represent the United States in Global Finals, September in Scotland, for the chance to be named the World Class Bartender of the Year.
Congratulations to Rebecca. No wonder The Charlottesville 29 called one of her cocktails among the best of 2018.
2019 USBG World Class Southern Regional Finalists, Photo by Shannon Sturgis
Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from Sarah Sargent of The Catering Outfit, which is joining this week’s Restaurant Week with its own pop-up restaurant, Foodbar, where Sargent will be maitre ‘d. Foodbar is a seven-seat, copper bar overlooking Chef Walter’s open kitchen, with additional seats at tables for a few more guests. The menu is no joke. (North American Sake Brewery sake-poached monkfish, horseradish parsnip puree, fermented beech mushrooms, grilled scallions, beet and plum.) Full menu and details here. Plus, after Restaurant Week ends, on Sunday, January 27 industry folks are invited to Foodbar to unwind with a special $20 menu just for them. Sargent’s picks:
1) Nutter Butters from Found. Market. “When I discovered Found. Market on the other side of our parking lot, I was beyond thrilled. And I started shopping for larger pants. If you haven’t been before, you must check it out for lunch. The quiche of the day or the turkey & muenster on house focaccia with pickled onions are my favorites, followed of course with that darn, dream worthy Nutter Butter. I’ve known the owners of Found. Market for quite a while, as chef Walter has bought lamb from their family farm (Retreat Farms) for years. The entire family (I think!) owns and operates this thoughtful market and bakery. Son Elliot makes the most amazing treats, like apple crumb coffee cake and chocolate cake with chocolate merlot ganache icing . . . Are you still reading this, or driving there now?!”
2) HAY! Straws at Continental Divide. “First and foremost, I’m a California girl. A couple years ago, San Diego county passed a law making people pay ten cents for a plastic bag at local retailers, encouraging the community to use reusable bags and kick that nasty plastic to the curb. This past year they passed a measure outlawing straws in restaurants. We’ve all had that uncomfortable, soggy, wet, paper straw in our mouths at some point and I think we can all agree – it’s no fun. So when I wrapped my lips around the HAY! Straw poking out of my house margarita at Continental Divide the other night – I was thrilled. Plus Continental Divide has my other California staple: good Mexican food. It took a minute, but I’ve officially embraced Tex- Mex instead if wishing it was Baja Med. The spinach and mushroom enchiladas with smoked gouda are always on point, and you can’t lose when ordering the carnitas. Throw in a house margarita with that wonderful sea-turtle-lovin’ HAY! Straw, and you got yourself a fiesta.”
3) Witchcraft at Tavola’s Cicchetti Bar. “Steve Yang has made such a lovely cocktail menu at the cicchetti bar. It is one of my favorite places to just take a breath after work on a weekday, especially a Monday. Many of us in the industry take Mondays off, but not all of us. After I survive a Monday like a boss, I like to slip around the corner for a slow drink and bite. I’m not always a gin fan, but the liquorestrega, sesame falernum, house tonic, and pretty lime garnish makes for a very revivifying mouthful. I love the cicchetti bar’s food specials too. The other night I enjoyed polenta fries with a spicy marinara. It is definitely my spot to experiencela dolce far niente.”
4) Flaming Boodie Sauce from Hip Hop Hill. “If you like hot sauce, this is your lover. I like me some hot wings now and then, but this honey hopenero hot sauce is one of my favs because it also doubles as a marinade. Last summer I spent many nights grilling under the stars, and this sauce made it onto a lot of my local chicken and steak. I also spent a good part of my summer trying new ways to use hops in the kitchen, like popping a few fresh nuggets into my homemade dill pickles. Hip Hop Hill is a hop farm out in Free Union (hence the honey “hop”enero) that is out to prove that hops aren’t just for beer. The Hill also happens to be the home of a fully licensed commercial kitchen and bottling warehouse. Owner Alessandro Valmarama has teamed up with Mad Hatter Foods, offering them a permanent home bottling facility, and I can’t wait to see what else these guys have in the works. You used to have to ‘know a guy’ to try this stuff, but luckily you can now pick up a bottle at Beer Run, JM Stock Provisions, or The Shebeen.”
5) Margherita D.O.C. at Lampo. “I know, it’s not that exciting. And there have been several late night, wine fueled arguments over the D.O.C. vs ‘regular’ margherita pizza–can you even taste the difference? My vote is, totes. And if there were ever a find to get excited about, it’s Lampo pizza. I don’t always have that much time to eat out, yet it’s one of my favorite things to do. Every time I get a night out with my girlfriends I want to go to Lampo. Something about sitting at a tiny table right off the sidewalk on a boisterous patio, sipping delicious Italian wine, picking at marinated olives, and giving ourselves the ‘go ahead’ to eat an entire loaf of bread before eating an entire pizza all to ourselves (it only comes in one size). Reminds me of vacations in Roma, where nights are long and the wine is endless. It’s just a perfect night out in my book.”