Emmy Kaplan: Patr?n of the Arts

Emmy Kaplan

For Emmy Kaplan, the proprietress of both the San Francisco and Sonoma, California iterations of Emmy?s Spaghetti Shack, the secret ingredient to a good cocktail is ?freshness.? Fear not for Emmy?s punk rock cred, however, a favorite among Bay Area musicians, artists and foodies alike, the Shack (as it?s colloquially known) has not been Michael Pollan-ized. Simply put, Kaplan and her staff don?t believe in mixing good booze with so-so mixers. To avoid doing so, they make their own with seasonal ingredients sourced from artisanal providers instead of agribusiness.

DH: ?So far as I can tell, your rules are ?Don?t use frozen purees or pre-made syrups, triple sec is verboten and stay seasonal whenever possible.??

EK: ?Work off what?s available. If Meyer lemons are in lemon season, make a killer lemon compote, or lemon puree.?

DH: ?Sounds like a farmers market in a glass.?

EK: ?It could be considered a farmers market in a glass, although we do like to do it a little more eccentric than your classic farmers market might. There wouldn?t just be peach, it would be peach with something you wouldn?t think peach would go well with. Instead of peach and mint, consider peach and basil. Don?t be typical.?

DH: ?What about sustainable??

EK: ?We try to be as sustainable as possible for the price. We don?t want to go overboard.? We don?t want our specialty drinks to be more than $9.?

DH: ?What will nine bucks get you??

EK:? ?The Emmy?s Berry Margarita made with Patr?n for one. We worked a long time making sure we had the proper berries. Again, it depends on what?s in season. Sometimes the raspberries are better, sometimes the blackberries are better ??you could do blueberries or a mixture of all of the berries. The other great thing about using good ingredients and forgoing products like triple sec that have a lot of sugar is that you can avoid a lot of hangovers, which are caused, in part, by the excessive sugar.?

DH: ?I thought hangovers were caused by excessive drinking.?

EK: ?If you make the simple syrup yourself, boil it down, you don?t get as bad of a hangover. You don?t need to over sweeten it. You just need a little bit of sugar. If it?s good liquor want to taste it, if it?s a martini or a margarita, you want to taste the vodka or tequila, that?s the whole point. If you?re going to put triple sec in your margarita, in my opinion, you shouldn?t be using top-shelf liquor.?

DH: ?I hear you have a ?secret menu.? What?s on it??

EK: ?It?s a secret.?

DH: ?What?s the protocol one has to enact to receive the secret menu??

EK: ?They have to make friends with us, they have to get in good, be friendly and bring their family in and we?ll surprise them every once and a while.?

DH: ?You got a tequila joke??

EK: ?It?s an old one. A guy sits at a bar in a high-rise ??like the Equinox in San Francisco.?

DH: ?That?s the restaurant on top of the Hyatt that spins. Great place if you?re afraid of heights and merry-go-rounds.?

EK: ?So, the guy next to him, slams a shot of tequila, opens a window and jumps. Five minutes later, he?s back and totally fine. The guy at the bar is shocked. He says ?How did you do that?? The guy who jumped is totally wasted and says that he doesn?t know, just that after he slams tequila and jumps out the window, at the last second the tequila suspends him above the ground.?

DH: ?It has the exact opposite effect on me.?

EK: ?Listen. The jumper does it again ? orders a shot, slams it and jumps out the window and come back unscathed. So, the guy at the bar is so impressed he insists on trying it too. He orders a shot, jumps out the window and ? wait for it ??splat! It?s over. The bartender looks at the other guy and says, ?You?re a real a?hole when you?re drunk, Superman.?

DH: ?So, the moral of the story is don?t try this with the Emmy?s Berry Margarita.?

EK: ?Unless you?re Superman.?

Emmy?s Berry Margarita with Patr?n

1 ? ounces of Patr?n Silver

? an ounce of Cointreau

? a squeezed fresh, organic lemon

? a squeezed fresh, organic lime

1 tablespoon organic berry compote

Generous splash of simple syrup (equal parts water and sugar, boiled and chilled)

In a pint glass brimming with ice, pour the above contents, shake and strain into a sugar-rimmed martini glass. Garnish with lime wedge or with a raspberry or blackberry or all the above.

A version of this article appeared in Patterson’s Tasting Panel Magazine.

Lost in Carneros

mini_cooperI’m a conscientious driver. Or at least I try to be, which is why, when my hands-free earpiece began to pick up air traffic signals and short wave radio broadcasts out of Guam, I pulled off the road to take a call while cruising down Eighth Street East. I entered the empty sprawl of the Carneros Business Park where the sole building is festooned with a sign that reads “You Wanna Piece of Me?” which sounds more like an invitation to a bar fight than a pitch for some square-footage, but clearly they know their market better than I do.

I completed my call – a tourism flak pal of mine had it in his head that the bureau must produce a zombie flick, you know, “for the holidays,” and I was inclined to agree. Meanwhile, a small caravan of vehicles trickled out of the complex. When I finally attempted the same, I discovered the gate had been closed. Upon further inspection, including a firm tug of the padlock on the gate, I realized it would remain closed. My car and I were locked in an empty business park and night would soon fall. Yes, I’m an idiot.

I took a cursory tour of the complex in the vain hope that one of the cul de sacs was an inlet that returned to Eighth Street East. Nada. No roads lead to Rome here, let alone reality beyond well-manicured plugs of shrubbery and monument signage. I was the sole human specimen in some botched re-creation of my natural habitat. I was the existential punch line of a “Twilight Zone” episode. It occurred to me to call the number on the “You Wanna Piece of Me?” sign to invite the real estate agent down to kickbox or whatever and waylay him long enough to drive through the gate before he knew what hit him (read: speak rapidly in his direction – 200 polysyllabic words a minute, baby).

This plan could have worked had I not drained my phone’s battery chatting about what wine zombies would pair with brains. The old iPhone car charger mysteriously will not charge the iPhone 3GS to which I had upgraded after literally dropping a call in a parking lot (damn that “butter fingers” app). I was both trapped and unable to obtain outside help.

I decided I could either set up camp or circle the myriad cul de sacs again.

This time around, however, I spied two blokes in the distance whose mise-en-scène recalled the set of “Waiting for Godot,” simply, “A country road. A tree.” To reach them I had to lurch my Mini Cooper over a cul de sac’s curb and into a field, then navigate a minefield of ditches and detritus before reaching them at the other side of the wasteland. They were not impressed. Nor did they have a road to speak of, just a length of compacted dirt that someday might grow into a road. I rolled down the window and asked if the gate they had come through was still open.

Here, I made two fatal assumptions: A) That there was a gate and B) that they had gone through it. The sun-baked men blinked back at me for a moment. Then, like Vladimir and Estragon, admitted they could not remember. We gazed vacantly at each other for a moment too long. Then, I motored onward into the adjacent vineyard.

Fortunately, the Mini is no wider than the tractor whose dusty tracks I followed, turn by turn, in an attempt to wend myself out of the finely pruned rows of chardonnay. The cross pitch for the motion picture version of this moment would be the “Italian Job” remake meets “Benny Hill” with maybe a little “Cannonball Run III” thrown in for good measure.

This labyrinthine detour would have been a minor footnote to my day had it not taken an hour and half to finally chance upon a corrugated metal structure and with it the possibility of escape. There, two different guys stood gaping at me from a distance. This time, I skipped the dialogue and turned down yet another patch of earth with aspirations to one day become a motorway. The guys were having none of it. They leapt into a truck and “gave chase” as they say in the police procedurals. I pulled over.

“What the hell are you doing?” the driver asked.

I played dumb. “This is part of the winery tour, right?”

The guy snapped into customer service mode.

“Actually, no, you’ll want to go straight and take a left, you know, onto the street. Where cars go.”

“The street? Right. That would make sense wouldn’t it?”

He nodded and with that I escaped to wash the terroir off my car.