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Shawn meets up with two Bay Area mixologists to make cocktails with unique San Francisco ingredients, using inspiration from one of the city’s best chocolatiers and a traditional Japanese tea ceremony.

Daily food & travel inspiration in your inbox

Daily food & travel inspiration in your inbox

Transcript

- I'm Shawn Thomas and this is Local Flight, a show where I travel around to some of the best bars in the country to meet amazing mixologists and challenge them to make innovative cocktails using unique local ingredients. So here I am in San Francisco, the city by the bay. It's got amazing views, great energy. I hear it has some of the best bars and restaurants in the country and I'm excited to check it out. I'm headed to 15 Romolo, one of the oldest craft cocktail bars in San Francisco. It's given some of the best bartenders in this city their start. - How are you doing? - Hi, I'm Shawn. - Shawn, nice to meet you. - Yeah, pleasure to be here. This is a great space you have here. - Oh, thanks so much. How do you feel about a martini? - I'd love a martini. - I'll let you know ahead of time, our house style is known as a 50/50, so equal parts gin and vermouth. We do a little commercial orange bitters, then we make our own lemon bitters in house. - [Shawn] Wow! - Then we jump right into the house-made Bianco vermouth. - [Shawn] That's awesome. You guys make your own Bianco. - Yeah, it's a base of Armagnac and Perodivii that we infuse with all the botanicals and then blend into a Fino Sherry. - [Shawn] Great. - And then of course, some London Dry Gin. We'll throw a little lemon twist on there for ya. - [Shawn] That looks and smells amazing already. Thank you so much. - For you, sir. - Cheers. I appreciate this. Salut! That is a balanced martini. I love the lemon bitters. They definitely come at the end there and compliment the lemon garnish so-- - I'm glad you're digging it. - This is great, what a great bar. So talk to me a little bit about what you do here. - The bar's been here 16 years. - Okay. You can imagine there wasn't a whole lot going on as far as craft cocktails in 1998. The bar is set in much higher in San Francisco now than it was before. They come into a place and they're not surprised by fresh juices and house-made ingredients. They expect it. - Sure. - All of our produce is sourced locally. We try and work with, especially new local purveyors, that are really kind of pushing the envelope. - So speaking of local ingredients, I actually visited this great local purveyor of chocolate. Chocolate making has been a part of San Francisco's lineage since the Gold Rush. Dandelion is continuing that tradition with their small-batch chocolate factory, right in the Mission District. Their rigorous process takes them around the globe in search of the bests cacao trees to make their handmade chocolate. Todd. - Hey, nice to meet you. - Hey, I'm Shawn, pleasure. This place is great, man, what an incredible space. It smells amazing in here. - Everything is done right here, from bean to bar. We're one of the few people in the country that goes and get beans and turns them into chocolate. - Yeah, I'm really excited to see what you guys are doing here. So what do you say we get started? - Great, yeah, let's go do a tour. We're one of the few places that actually goes and makes chocolate ourselves from the bean. We go all around the world, trying to find the best beans from Madagascar, Ecuador, Liberia, but we'll actually go through bean by bean and pick out anything weird. It's a lot of work but if you want to get the best chocolate, you have to do it because we only use two ingredients, cocoa beans and sugar. We have nowhere to hide. We don't add vanilla, so there's no vanilla masking. We don't add cocoa butter, so we don't mellow it out. We don't add inclusions. Some people add chili and salt, we don't do any of that so that means that anything in here, you're going to taste. We roast them very, very lightly so you get the best flavors and then we turn them into chocolate. Here's a roasted cocoa bean, these are from Ecuador. If you take it in your hand and you just roll it between your fingers, it'll crack. When we're making chocolate, we want to remove the shell. In here are the nibs. The nibs are essentially 100% chocolate. So once the beans have been cracked and winnowed, we're left with just the pure nibs. You can see, this is just all just 100% chocolate. The next step is to grind it down, and for that we use a machine called the melanger, and we grind for three days. The natural fat in the bean, the cocoa butter, comes out and starts becoming liquid. So this is the Liberian. Probably pretty strong. - That's delicious. Yeah, definitely on the stronger side, more robust. So that's just the sugar and the bean? - Yeah and again, this is from Liberia so this is a more chocolatey bean. This one's from Madagascar. You can tell, straight from the color, tell me if you notice a difference? - Yeah, 100%. It's lighter. It's more citrusy. - Citrus, really, exactly. So we didn't add any fruit. That's just the bean itself that has that flavor. They're both two ingredients, same amount of sugar, so it's the bean that's really shining through. - Wow, amazing. - After this, we have chocolate. Before we can sell it, we're going to temper it so that it has the right snap, it actually melts in your mouth not your hand, that whole thing. That's all from tempering. - [Shawn] So it's not about making mass quantities here? - No, we go for flavor first. If we can make more chocolate faster, that's great, but that's not the goal. The goal is flavor. - You're raising the chocolate bar. - That's right. So I have some bars for you to try. Start with the Venezuelan. - All right. - When you're tasting chocolate, only tip really is just not to eat it too quickly. If you just chew it super fast, you'll miss everything. - It's subtle. It really is subtle. - Yeah, so that one's sort of chocolately, now give this one a try, the Madagascar, and see if you notice a difference. - All right. It's much sharper than this. It's acidic. It's fruity. - Yeah, you got a good palate. Chocolate can actually have more flavor complexity than wine or coffee. We like to have a range of chocolates to show what chocolate can be. We hope that at least one of our bars is someone's favorite in the whole universe of chocolate. This is the Papua New Guinea. This one is dried basically over smoke so it has a slight smoky, sort of barbecuey tang. - These are all really great and all really different too. Do you mind if I take some of this with me? - Oh no, I've got some for you, some Madagascar cocoa beans and then the Madagascar chocolate bar. - Amazing. Thank you again, I appreciate it. - Thanks a lot! - [Shawn] Dandelion Chocolate cares about one thing above all else, flavor, and that starts with quality beans. The cacao nibs are such a unique ingredient and I can't wait to see what Ian does with them. - We've worked with cacao nibs before and let's see what we can come up with. - They're real earthy. - Oh yeah. - [Shawn] They have that chocolaty nose but they don't have any inherent sweetness. They're more bitter, more earthy. - Bitter, nutty. - What do you think you can do with these things here? - How do you feel about infusions? - Mostly infusions I know take a couple days. - Let's speed up the process using nitrous oxide. - Okay. - Does that sound like fun? - That sounds great. You're like an old-school pharmacist. The aroma's just fantastic. - [Ian] Yeah, it's exploding right now. These are beautiful, especially compared to the commercial cacao nibs you get. Let's use Gray Goose l'Orange. - Sure, yeah, orange and chocolate goes great together. - I agree. About 500 milliliters, we're gonna cap this guy. - Now, this is an infusion someone could do at home, say if they had like two to three days, ground up some nibs. - Yeah, if you've got more time than we've got today, then you can absolutely just get a clean mason jar, crush up your cacao nibs just the same way that we did, throw 'em in the jar, top it up with the vodka, put it in a cool dark place for a few days, kind of taste it as you go until it's ready. This way is much faster. We've got our nitrous oxide canister, we're just gonna crank that on here, and what this is gonna do is pressurize and agitate this mixture so much that it forces all of the oils out of those cacao nibs that we crushed up, and flavors the vodka. Then you can pop the cap off, you wanna make sure to expel the gas first, otherwise this whole thing will explode all over your freshly laundered shirts. And you should use a fine mesh strainer, any kind will do. All right, let's see how the color turned out on this. - [Shawn] Cool. Yeah, slight golden color there, that's great. - Just a little color for fun. I'm gonna taste a little bit as well just to see where we're gonna go with this cocktail. - Let's give it a try. - Cheers. - Cheers. - That's great, the cacao and orange play really nicely together. - Yeah, this just needs a little citrus and maybe a little spice. Should we give it a shot? - Let's do it! - Let's try it. So let's start with just a half an ounce of egg white there. - I love egg white, it kind of just is the glue that ties a cocktail together. - Yeah, it adds incredible texture, it's really frothy, foamy, then we'll add some fresh lemon juice, about three-quarters of an ounce, add some balance to that with some very rich simple syrup. This is two parts sugar to one part water, and to make that work you always have to do it over just a little bit of heat, just warm enough to dissolve all that sugar and then you get a really nice rich simple syrup. Before we add the spirits, let's go ahead and shake to emulsify. - So, it's like you're creating a lemon meringue before you add those. - Exactly, so we're not gonna add any ice, we're just gonna get a tight seal here, give it a good shake just for a couple seconds. Now that that's beautifully emulsified, we can add our spirits, ancho chili liqueur from Mexico, just a half an ounce. An ounce and a half of the cacao infused Gray Goose l'Orange. - [Shawn] Perfect. - Now we add our ice. Ready to give it another quick shake. - [Shawn} You like to fine strain just in case there's some stray ice chunks and things of that nature? - Yeah, the stray ice chunks tend to break down the beautiful emulsification we worked so hard on. Let's just add a splash of seltzer to open it up a little bit more. - [Shawn] Cool. - We're gonna very carefully shave a little bit of chocolate over the top. - [Shawn] That looks awesome, man. - That's for you! - Thank you! - Does it work? - Wow, does it work? It works really well! - Excellent. - Brightness of the lemon, little bit of spice, it's got a great creamy mouth feel, the egg white is perfect. The seltzer just adds a little bit of effervescence. - And it's all chocolate on the finish. - That's right, what do we call a drink like this? - It's kind of like the same structure as the Gin Fizz. - Well the beans are from Madagascar, we could call it a Madagascar Fizz. - I love it! - Ian, thank you so much! - Thanks for bringing the chocolate by! - Absolutely, man! - Always fun to play with new stuff. - See you again. - Cheers. - [Shawn] Located in the south of Market Neighborhood, Dirty Habits sits high above the street where you're easily transported from the bustling city to a dark moody atmosphere. Their menu of classic and cutting edge cocktails is a product of close collaboration between their kitchen and the bar. I'm meeting up with the Bar Manager, Brian Means to find out more. Talk to me a little bit about the format of your menu. - Definitely seasonality plays huge because we're in San Francisco, and in California we can get everything we want to, it's pretty awesome. - Do you try to pair with the food here, and work with the chef as far as conceptualizing drink with food? - Yeah, big time, working with them on cocktails, and we started doing more savory cocktails and sours. Not only do they help me out, but we have like six different palates in the back that taste everything before we actually finish a menu. - Cool, have you been playing around with any ideas that you think are new and fresh? - We play around with teas right now, we just did a black tea with jaggery as one of the main ingredients, it was a cordial that we put into the punch, and we're messing around with a matcha jasmine tea as well right now. - Well it sounds like you're doing some really cool things here, I'd love to try one of your cocktails. - Yeah, of course, man. We'll do a cocktail called Cream of the Crop. This is a very creamy cocktail, so I'm gonna grab the mezcal and measure out an ounce. Coconut pistachio. - [Shawn] And you make it like an Orja Five? - It's a pistachio milk, but it also has a coconut cream in there, it's unsweetened so you have to add sugar into it. - Delicious. - Lemon juice comes next. And then the ginger is last. And we'll add ice and shake. - So I've been really surprised to see how well this cocktail has actually been selling, I wasn't too sure how people were gonna see a mezcal cocktail with ginger and spice in it, but it turns out people want way more smoke, they want way more spice. All right, so we finish this drink with candied ginger, and there's powdered espelette. Espelette is another spice we use in the kitchen, so it's kind of like our collaboration with the kitchen. - Well, right off the bat, I love what the pistachio and coconut cordial does, I mean it's like a thick creamy off-white color, it looks great, so, cheers, thank you! That is delicious, man! - Thanks, man! - That is really great! - It's like a smokey pina colada without pineapple. - The ginger just compliments the acidity, which you need just a little bit to cut through that sweet creaminess. The smokiness in the mezcal and the pistachio works perfectly. - Awesome! - Aptly named, because it is definitely cream of the crop. - Thanks, man! - So, I'd love for you to come out with me in the city, we'll collaborate and try to find an ingredient that captures some of the deep traditions here in San Francisco. You guys do a lot of teas here? - Yeah - Is there a specific type of tea that you're more intrigued by? - I love using matcha because if you use it with just straight spirit, it's bright green, like a jade color, and super creamy. - Okay. - There's a little bit of earthiness to it. - Sure, yeah. - But it's actually a tea that's made from the whole leaf. So, it'd be really cool to find some place that can make it properly. - Yeah, that does that. Well, let's find a place and really get to know the ingredient in it's purest form before we come back here and use it in a cocktail. - Sounds great! - What do you say? - Let's go do it! - All right! - [Shawn] We're heading to the Urasenke Foundation in North Beach. Based in Kyoto, Japan, the foundation sends instructors around the world to teach the tradition of chenou, or the way of tea. They've invited us to join them for a Japanese tea ceremony, but first, Masami Saisu of Sai Kimono was kind enough to dress us in traditional kimonos for the occasion. I have kimono envy, you have the mountain on yours. I kind of feel like a samurai. - I wish I was a samurai. - [Shawn] You might think it's easy to just put on a kimono yourself, but it's an art. As a novice, one needs a master like Misami to do it right. - Okay, all set? Arigato sai mas. - Thank you. - Jessica and Kiko were kind enough to guide us through the process, and invite us to meet the host, Toshko, who is preparing our tea today. - We slide in because traditionally the tea room doors were often about three feet high, and that's so that everyone who enters the tea room has to lower their head. And then we'll turn and look at the objects that the host has chosen to place in the alcove, because that's the position of honor in the tea room. - [Shawn] What do we have here? - These are sweets that the host has brought in, we tend to take the sweets and eat them completely right before we have our bowl of tea. She's bringing in everything that she needs to make tea. - Even the way she moves, it's so deliberate. - [Brian] Is there always a specific type of tea that's used for every ceremony, or is it the same all the time? - In one way it is always the same type of tea in that it's always powdered green tea, but there are different blends of tea, kind of like wine. - [Toshko] Jessica, this is your tea, please enjoy. - Would you like to have this bowl of tea? - I would love to have that bowl of tea! I mean, ladies first, but if you're offering, I would take it. In order to accept the tea? - You should actually say no. - Oh, no, I would not, no I would not like this tea. I would like for you to enjoy that first cup of tea. - Thank you very much. - The yuzu is great, it's very aromatic and slightly bitter, but very sweet at the same time, it's delicious. - [Jessica] I'm glad you liked it. - [Shawn] Oh, I think my tea is ready. - Just bring the bowl toward you, and then you'll slide back. - Would you like to have this bowl? - No, please, enjoy your bowl of tea. - Delicious! - Matcha powdered green tea is actually grinded tea leaf into the powder, so you drink whole leaf. - And the brush, is that what gives it that beautiful froth and creamy. - [Toshko] Yes, yes. - What's the reason behind turning the bowl when you're making the tea, and when you're also drinking the tea? - [Jessica] She puts the bowl out with the front of the bowl facing the guest, and then the guest would turn the bowl to drink so that they aren't drinking out of the front, and this is more of an existential gesture. - There's an inner gratitude as well. - Exactly, yes. - Everything is so beautiful, like it is done so meticulously and perfectly, like, to where, from start to finish even when you walk in, she makes the tea, and the bowls are beautiful, and I've never seen tea, like, that bright either. - [Shawn] The green. - [Brian] Yeah. - Thank you so much for having us here. - It was a really amazing experience. - It was a beautiful experience. - It was a very special gathering for us as well. - [Shawn] Armed with an intimate knowledge of matcha preparation and an understanding of the special ingredient, we were now ready to use tea in a cocktail, and pay homage to our generous hosts. It was almost like we just went back in time to like ancient Japan. - Yeah, it was a pretty cool experience to see how everything was done. - Just getting the containers of matcha, we actually got to see traditional preparation. - It's a lot different than what you see nowadays. - So what do you think, now that you know matcha in it's purest form, would you be kind enough to make me a drink, sir? - Yes, sir. - Thank you! - So we're using Gray Goose today. - Clean. - Pure, a little bit of vanilla, kind of creamy. It'll add some really nice notes to the tea we're gonna use. - Cool. - We actually use a matcha jasmine cordial, so we'll see how it works with the Gray Goose in this particular cocktail. - [Shawn] How do you make that? - [Brian] So, this one is two parts sugar, and then we use a strong brewed matcha jasmine tea powder. I like the tea powder because they actually use the leaves, like we saw in the tea ceremony, they use the whole leaf, so you just cook that up, and it goes in a cordial. I'm thinking something acidic in the cocktail as well, so probably lemon juice, traditionally with tea, you think lemon, whether it's lemon peel, or a squeeze of lemon on the inside. We'll try an ounce on this. And then, we could probably do some sort of spicy element not in heat, so ginger is a really great ingredient in tea. - And you say that's a liqueur? - Yeah, it's a liqueur, it's great because it's higher in proof, so it can still add that boost of alcohol to the cocktail. - Yeah. - With tea, to add creaminess, we can actually add milk if we wanted to, but we can try a little bit of egg white in this as well to add that creaminess to the cocktail. - So it's like a riff on a classic sour. - Yeah, a sour, exactly. We'll dry shake it first and we'll add ice later. - Get it nice and frothy. - All right, now I'll get our ice in there. - Almost like the whisking that they did of the matcha, you just did with that dry shake. - Totally, you've got to incorporate the ingredients somehow in the tea, and how do you incorporate the powder? You gotta stir it up, just like you would in cooking, same thing with cocktails, you gotta shake, emulsify, and break down the components, integrate them all, and same thing we're gonna do with ice. - [Shawn] Great! - And then we'll strain it into a coupe. - I'm interested to see the color of that. Yeah, see it almost has like a silver tint to it. - So we have the matcha jasmine in there. What we're doing over the top is actually a hibiscus powder, which is also used in teas. And then we do cornflowers on top. Not like flour, flour, like you use in tortillas, but the actual flowers. We've used corn tea in cocktails before as well, so it's three to four different teas we have. - [Shawn] I love it, man! - [Brian] There you go. - [Shawn] Thank you, sir! That's great, man, that's really solid. I get the botanicals from the matcha and the jasmine right on the forefront, and it really compliments the cornflower, that cornflower has a beautiful scent to it, and the hibiscus, so that's a really synergistic relationship right there. Good amount of acidity, it's really lively on the palate. And, I love egg white in cocktails, I mean just the froth. - It's definitely a lot different from the traditional way we just went from drinking tea to more modern way of how we can integrate it into cocktails. - Please try your own creation. It's balanced. - Turned out a lot better than I thought! - Nice! What do you call a drink like this? - I'm thinking liquid poetry, because, you know, we just drank from a vessel that had poetry on it. - It was wisdom, but it was also in a form of a poem. - Well, it's cool because the scroll is different to every person that walks in the tea room, cocktails are the same way, they're different to each person that tastes them. - I'm going to recite you an original poem based on this drink, let's see, When I drink this drink it makes me smile. I think I'll stay at your bar for quite a while. - That's beautiful. - Thanks for coming along for the adventure, and I hope you had a good time, and thank you for this delicious cocktail. - Yeah, thanks for the invite to the tea ceremony, that was really awesome. - Absolutely. I'll see you next time. - See you soon. - See you soon. - Take care.