The Tasting Panel magazine

May 2012

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Page 82 of 132

WORLD OF FLAVOR A T Toast to Freshness AMORETTI FITS THE BILL AT WHISKEY CAKE IN PLANO, TX by Anthony Head / photos by Kirk Weddle he bright room and open floor plan of Whiskey Cake in Plano (just north of Dallas), allows just about everyone in the joint to observe (i.e., taste) how the same progressive philosophy directing the kitchen also inspires the bar program. Whiskey Cake's dedication to fresh, local ingredients is evident—right down to its growing room and small outdoor garden for herbs, cucum- bers, chives, and other produce. And both the restaurant and bar customers benefit from the proximity of garden-fresh ingredi- ents as well as from the continuous deliveries from nearby farms. The availability of such raw ingredients translates to more "from scratch" approaches for crafting cocktails. Instead of just tipping bottles, bartenders here squeeze fresh juices and make their own ingredients, such as simple syrups, to raise the bar for presenta- tion, flavor, and customer enjoyment. Bar Manager Sean Conner says "depth and complexity of flavor" are the advantages of making syrups for artisanal drinks, and he thinks they're important components for any restaurant that's serious about its cocktail reputation. "I think making your own syrups from fresh ingredients like these is something that a lot more people are going to start doing. But," he cautions, "if there is a really good product already available, I always say use that product. You don't always need to reinvent the wheel. Amoretti products are already great." Based in Oxnard, California, Amoretti produces an always-expanding catalogue of ready-to-use Premium Syrups from fruits, chocolates, nuts and many other flavorings. So many, in fact, and because they're produced to a level of quality that meets Whiskey Cake's' standards, Conner says there's always going to be an occasion when a product that 82 / the tasting panel / may 2012 Amoretti makes could elevate the outcome for something he is making. "We're still far from the standard model of casual restaurant bars," Conner says, "because we put as much importance on the ingredients you don't see as we do on choosing the bottles for the shelves behind the bar." Head Bartender Bonnie Wilson agrees, adding, "Whiskey Cake has a 'farm-to-fork, garden-to-glass' philosophy for both the restaurant and the craft bartending program. So we emphasize freshness, and we use as many local ingredients as possible. But there's no shying away from using products that we don't or can't make here. We're just careful to choose the best we can." And while not every bar has fresh mint leaves trucked in twice a week, nor every bartender able to pick a fresh cucumber for Cucumber Martinis (like those at Whiskey Cake), by choosing the great products, the outcome—a delicious cocktail—can still be certain. Bar Manager Sean Conner and Head Bartender Bonnie Wilson clink glasses in a salute to Amoretti.

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