The Tasting Panel magazine

March 2016

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1 14  /  the tasting panel  /  march 2016 When you belly up to a bar overseen by Kevin Felker, you can count on seeing bowls of bright fresh fruit behind the counter. You may even catch the faint aroma of basil or some other fresh herb. The sights and smells aren't just pleasant, they're loaded with purpose. "Ingredients like fresh fruit and herbs are the backbone of a good cocktail program," says Felker, Beverage Director for the Southern California restaurant collec- tive King's Seafood Co. "Educating bartenders on how important these things are lays the groundwork for all of the other elements that go into making a proper cocktail." Felker's mindset is an ideal fit for King's, whose restau- rants boast a strong adherence to fresh and sustain- able practices. It certainly plays a key role in the cock- tail programs that Felker created for the company's network of dining establishments, which range from casual restaurants like King's Fish House to more high- end seafood-centric eateries like Water Grill. It's also infused with a philosophy that harkens back to Felker's bartending days in New York City—one in which the happiness of the customer trumps any feat of derring- do that may occur on the other side of the counter. "Our cocktail programs are not designed to turn our bartend- ers into 'the mixology guy,'" he states. "It's meant to be a well-rounded list that appeals our clientele. It's critical that the list offers something for every possible type of guest that walks through the door." This doesn't mean that Felker is lacking an esoteric streak. He has one, and it especially comes through when he discusses his love of craft beer. It's a passion he plans on sharing through King's Fish House, as he is striving to make the beer programs for all 11 locations independent in order to shine the spotlight on local suds. "As long as our overall beer list can still appeal to a broad audience, there's no reason why we can't feature local product," Felker states. "We're doing this regardless of the number of taps." Some may even pair quite nicely with the smell of basil. TAKING INVENTORY WITH . . . Restaurants that feel timeless, even if the restaurant is new. The fact that there's always something new to learn. Teaching how to make cocktails properly. The local craft beer scene and the sense of community it creates. Bartenders who know how to make a proper Negroni or Manhattan. Being called a mixologist. "Sad" garnishes like limp herbs or non-fresh fruit. People that aren't punctual. Over- manipulation of food or drink. Bartenders that try to bluff when they don't know the answer. THE "5" LIST KEVIN FELKER'S TOP FIVE FAVES KEVIN FELKER'S TOP FIVE PET PEEVES KEVIN FELKER PHOTO: MARGARET SOSS BEVERAGE DIRECTOR, KING'S SEAFOOD CO, SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA by Rich Manning

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