Thursday, March 20th, 2014
Chief Barman Matthew Campbell has been busy as of late. Recently added cocktail “Summer Camp” is a big hit, and fast on its heels is his latest: Knock on Wood. The name is a reference to the wood barrels used for aging the Zaya twelve-year rum that is the centerpiece of the drink, but we believe that consuming this cocktail will likely preserve good fortune much like the age-old superstition from which it derives its name.
Without further ado, Matthew’s notes:
This drink is the product of a hypothetical question: Could chile/heat/spice be incorporated into a stirred cocktail to good effect? We’ve had success with spicy cocktails of course, and with agave-spirit stirred drinks that act like our favorite whiskey classics. The two did not seem mutually exclusive; we just hadn’t gone down that road yet.
Ancho (roasted poblano) seemed the perfect chile as it had a mellow heat and smoky, cooked sweetness reminiscent of whiskey. Apricots and orange peels were added to round out this house-made ancho liquor as I wanted the finished drink to have a depth of mid-palate that often comes with Curaçao.
We recently added Zucca Rabarbaro Amaro (rhubarb bitters) to our pantry because it’s delicious and we knew it would find a home in one of our cocktails before long. Dolin blanc is a dry vermouth with a floral nose and a dry sherry-like finish. It adds front-end brightness and long oxidized, nutty finish.
I have loved Zaya since they began distilling in Venezuela some years ago. Now produced in Trinidad, the Gran Reserva is aged 12 years on American oak (bourbon barrels) – toasted, caramel, vanilla, etc… All in all, a perfect spirit for a whiskey-esque stirred drink with Mexican accents (heat).
Wednesday, March 19th, 2014
Tevye, the protagonist from “Fiddler on the Roof”, extolls the importance of preserving old traditions in Jewish cultural life. Of course that doesn’t mean that new traditions can’t be established as well. Another year has passed, and as spring comes around we prepare to host our 2nd annual Mexican Passover Seder at Comal.
There will be a few new twists to the menu this year, but the Jalapeño Matzo Balls and Beef Brisket braised in ancho chile adobo are back due to popular demand – as is the tequila-cured salmon.
We will once again be following the more liberal Sephardic tradition that allows for corn, beans and rice. It will be a fun, secular celebration, a cultural mash up. There will be no Hagaddahs, and the dinner will not be kosher (meat and dairy will be served), but it will be both festive and delicious.
We welcome you to gather around the Seder plate and help to enrich this young Comal family tradition. Last year’s dinners both sold out in advance, so we encourage you to pick up tickets sooner than later if you’re planning to join us.
Here’s a link to the official announcement with menu details, ticket info, etc – hope to see you there!
Caldo de Pollo jalepeño matzo balls
Tequila-cured Salmon avocado, endive, radish, cilantro oil
Tuesday, March 18th, 2014
Following on the heels of two sold-out dinners last year, Comal will again mark the first two nights of Passover – Monday, April 14 and Tuesday, April 15 – with multi-course family-style dinners in their intimate private dining room, Abajo. Executive Chef Matt Gandin has created a menu in his signature Mexican style that riffs on traditional Passover dishes. Dinners will follow the more liberal Sephardic traditions, incorporating rice, beans and corn into the meal, and will forego haggadahs for lively conversation at the communal table.
The dinners will start promptly at 6:30PM. Seating is limited to twenty-two diners each night. Tickets are $60 per person (inclusive of gratuity but exclusive of beverages) and can be purchased by clicking on one of these links:
April 14 – http://www.ticketfly.com/event/523565-second-annual-passover-dinner-berkeley/
April 15 – http://www.ticketfly.com/event/523663-second-annual-passover-dinner-berkeley/
Passover Seder Menu
Guacamole with chips & three salsas
Sikil Pak toasted pumpkin seeds, grilled eggplant, habanero
Jicama & Cucumber chile arbol, lime
Tequila-cured Salmon avocado, endive, radish, cilantro oil
Goat Birria Quesadilla Anaheim chiles
Caldo de Pollo jalapeño matzo balls
Beef Brisket in Adobo carrots, raisins, peanut-chile arbol salsa,
Midnight black beans de olla
Mandarin Raspado whipped crema, almond shortbread
Tuesday, March 11th, 2014
Click here to read the full article.
Thursday, March 6th, 2014
One of the motivations that many have for becoming a chef is a strong appreciation of sense memories. Certain smells or tastes can trigger a flood of memories from a certain time and place. My love of Mexican flavors is certainly enhanced by fond recollections of meals shared during my childhood with my family at our favorite Mexican restaurants.
One scent that stirs up particularly happy memories for me is the smell of fennel pollen. I was raised in Southern California, and each summer, my sisters and I spent a few weeks away from home at summer camp in Malibu, just across highway 1 from the famous surf spot, County Line. For those not familiar with the flora of coastal Southern California, wild fennel grows in profusion, and in the summer, their overgrown stalks are bursting with pollen, perfuming the air for miles around.
Like many adolescents, I looked forward to these few summer weeks throughout the year. Camp was a safe place, away from my parents, where I made new friends, and saw old ones each year, found romance for the first time, and was free to re-invent myself to others in a way that was different from how I was perceived at home during the rest of the year.
Matthew Campbell, our lead bartender, has created a cocktail that captures for me this time and place in a glass. “Summer Camp” makes its debut this evening on our cocktail list. Put away your umbrella and let the scents of summer take you back to a sunny place and time; perhaps you’ll even meet a summer crush.
Matthew C’s notes:
The basic idea started with toasted coriander syrup (made previously with no specific drink in mind) and peak-of-season Meyer lemons. In keeping with the traditional sour model, egg white was then added for body. The Salers apertivo (gentian) was the next piece to fall into place. When I tasted it initially I knew it could be the earthy, stabilizing force to offset the floral coriander/Meyer combo.
I’ve had a bag of fennel pollen since the summer and now seemed the perfect time to incorporate the aromatics over the egg white foam. Ground with lavender and dusted atop, the botanicals are then keyed in to both taste and smell.
The finishing component was the base spirit. We often build drinks “backwards”, where the spirit is the last thing considered. Somewhat atypical, as most folks set out to make a “bourbon drink”, then work from there. Tony had brought in a bunch of freshly picked bay leaves and we infused them on highland tequila (green, vegetal, minty). At this point I realized we had (similar to our botanical gin) designed a drink featuring a lot of local plants and winter aromatics from the East Bay hills. Probably no surprise, as Tony and I spend our free time tromping around regional parks with packs of dogs…