The Tasting Panel magazine

March 2016

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march 2016  /  the tasting panel  /  77 A Perfect Pairing by Jesse Hom-Dawson Food isn't the only thing that couples well with Duke Bourbon; Yardbird Southern Table & Bar teamed up with Duke to showcase the product at their Miami and Las Vegas locations for a perfect pair. The restaurants are wildly popular and are famous for their secret recipe fried chicken and Southern comfort food. With an impressive mixology program, a "bourbon bar" at the Yardbird Miami location and a specialty ice program at the Las Vegas offshoot, it's no surprise that John Kunkel, CEO of 50 Eggs, the restaurant group that owns Yardbird, and Chris Radomski, a partner at Duke, would find common ground. "Chris and I actually met because our kids went to school together," Kunkel laughs. "He is a partner at the Hundred Acre Wine Group, which produced some of the fine wines that we carry in our restaurants, and when I found out he was also a founder of the bourbon, I got the idea for a collaboration." Duke Bourbon is featured in one of Yardbird's signature cocktail, The Porkchop, which features Duke Bourbon, Dijon syrup, yuzu juice and apple cider, served with a Dijon thyme cube. And it's not only the cocktails where Duke has a presence. "Ethan Wayne, a partner at Duke, purchased an amazing collection of photography featuring movie and music stars like Johnny Cash and John Wayne [Ethan's dad and the namesake of the bourbon], and he was kind enough to loan me the collection, which hangs in our restaurant in Las Vegas," Kunkel relates. "The photographs are the perfect addition to the restaurant, and a great reminder of our partnership together." even then, it's not a surefire thing. You can add a little more sweetness to something, or lower the alcohol if it's a spicy dish, for instance. We know, from experience, that low alcohol/high fruit content is mixed for the best pairing. That's the reason Rieslings go so well with Thai food, because of the residual sugar, low alcohol and the unbelievable fruiti- ness of it. So how do you parallel that in the spirit world? Well, it's not that difficult. You at least know what direction you need to go to and where you obtain acidity could be with tamarind, it could be with citrus, it could be with shrubs—drinkable vinegars—etc. Every single day I learn more and more, and it's such a geeky curiosity that keeps me getting up every day. That's what you don't want to lose. Don't become satisfied. How's the old saying go? "If you're not living on the edge, you're taking up space on the planet." Fred Dame: For so many years, when I worked at Seagram's and the big companies, we had a bar book. And that was our great contribution to the industry. "Hey kid, here's the bar book. Memorize this and you know every drink everybody will ask for." And that was it. One little book. I don't think anyone now has even looked at a bar book! They're looking up on the internet to find out what a bar book was! So, look at how it's changed. Instead of memorizing, they're creating, including playing with wine cocktails. I think that anytime that you're pushing the envelope, you know there will be some flops. But there will probably be some very, very cool things that happen. Wine is tough. It's complicated. It's hard to make, it's hard to understand and it's constantly changing. Forget all the regions and the winemakers and all that part of it. It's aging in the bottle and it's changing every day. So, when you're talking about doing something like this, that's an interesting go, because wine doesn't behave like you want it to. It can be a very, very naughty little fellow. The winning recipe is not going to be the same recipe next year. Because you're working with a living, breath- ing ingredient. Eye-opener, huh? At Yardbird Southern Table & Bar, 50 Eggs CEO John Kunkel is joined by Duke Spirits partners Ethan Wayne and Chris Radomski as part of the "Dining with The Duke" competition, which you'll read all about in the April issue of THE TASTING PANEL! Chris Radomski is partners in Hundred Acre, Layer Cake and Duke Bourbon, and brought all three together during the Dining with The Duke competition. Yardbird's famous fried chicken, from a family recipe, now serves guests in Miami and Las Vegas.

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