by guest blogger and New York writer Seanan Forbes
Farmer Lee Jones has been serving chefs for a while. (If you ever meet him, then ask him about the time Julia Child called the farm.)
Top mixologists buy from him, too. The farm produces goods fitted to pass the bar, including edible swizzle sticks - also used as skewers, which means that you can eat the skewer, as well as what is speared. They come in rhubarb, zesty lemon (at left) and horseradish. Imagine that in your Bloody Mary.
Some items cross between the bar and the kitchen: popcorn shoots, lavender blossoms, root beer leaf with its flavors of licorice and clove, anise hyssop, edible flowers . . . No wonder Nacional 27's Adam Seger orders food fresh from the farm.
Fun though it is to play with produce, bartenders aren't doing it for themselves. "The mixologist recognizes that they can add value to the experience for the guest by buying ingredients that are high-quality and have purpose," says Jones.
As with cooking, so with bars: Being pretty is not enough. "The flavor needs to lend to the drink," he says. No matter how nice something looks, if it isn't going to complement your cocktail, then don't use it.
If the farm affects the cocktail - and it does - then the cocktail also affects the farm. "We've changed the way that we grow some things, to be able to create things specifically for mixologists," Jones says. For the rhubarb skewers, which are approximately as thick as a No. 2 pencil, Jones planted the seeds closer together. "Of course, you've got the red color to it, breaking into green." So it's pretty and it tastes good, too. Fits the bill - or the menu.
That's all well and good for those who work in restaurants or behind bars, but what if you want to try Farmer Jones' products at home? Enough people asked that question, and Jones started a consumer site.
A couple of days ago, he added a home mixologist's box to the lineup. If you're a habitual pencil-chewer, then be wary. You might swallow your stirrers before you have time to mix a drink.
photos courtesy Chef's Garden