The Tasting Panel magazine

July 2018

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32  /  the tasting panel  /  july 2018 We've partnered with Chef's Roll & Somm's List, the global culinary and wine professional networks, to learn more about beverage experts from across the country. If you are a mixologist or wine professional interested in being featured here or want more information on Chef's Roll and Somm's List, please email PHOTO COURTESY OF BEN SCHRADER BRAITHE TIDWELL Wine Director at Brennan's Restaurant in New Orleans, LA Open since 1946, Brennan's is a legendary institution in New Orleans. How have you maintained tradition through your wine selections while also keeping the list relevant? Brennan's cellar has a long and rich history, and we are lucky enough to have some old wine lists in the cellar dating back 40–50 years to see what the focus of the program was back then in its original glory. Burgundy and Bordeaux have always had a large prominence on the list, and since New Orleans loves its French wines—particularly Burgundy—Brennan's has one of the most diverse collections of Burgundy in the country. The other side of the list, however, needs to be competitive, thoughtful, and innovative. With tourists coming into the city from all over the world, it's important that we are relevant to everyone who wants to enjoy wine at Brennan's. Executive Chef Slade Rushing's Creole menu features influences of French and Spanish ancestry. What is your strategy when picking wines that will pair well with such rich flavors? I love working with Slade! He and his wonderful wife, Allison, are a very important part of the culinary community here in New Orleans. When it comes to pairing, we've developed a good language with each other. Slade is very good at finding buzzwords that describe the flavors of his dishes, which allows me to understand the focal points of each dish and begin to build the flavors and nuances of a wine around his words. I'm very lucky to be working at the "Champagne House of the South." Our wine list has a multitude of the Grand Marques of Champagne, Grower Champagne, and sparkling wines from around the world. When all else fails, I know I can always pair with a fantastic bottle of bubbles! BEN SCHRADER Creative Director of Scratch Restaurant Group in Los Angeles, CA How did you first get into bartending and managing? My passion for cocktails began when I was living in New York City. A close friend and I would host cocktail soirees in his apartment in Astoria in Queens after coming home from performing our respective Broadway shows. We would invite a small group of people over every Sunday night and offer a limited menu of what we were experimenting with that week, essentially doing a cocktail tasting for friends. Tending bar was akin to hosting and performing, so I took to it quickly. You personally oversee the bar at Sushi | Bar, an eight-top, speakeasy-style sushi joint that offers a 17-course tasting menu. What philosophy do you have when it comes to creating drink pairings? My approach is similar to a chef combining ingredients for a recipe. If I start with blueberries, for instance, I know that a cloudy nigori sake will take on the color and flavor of those mild berries beautifully. Sage and pine pair nicely with blueberry, so the next step is figuring out how to incorporate them into the mix so we have a cocktail that's undeniably new and unmistakably Japanese. With pairing sake, it's really just about understanding the nature of the varietal you're pouring. When we serve a fatty toro sushi, for instance, it's paired with our Chikurin Junmai Ginjo, a sake with a higher acidity. That acid combined with the fattiness of the fish creates an explosion of flavor that can't be beaten. PHOTO COURTESY OF BRENNAN'S RESTAURANT

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