Stirring together a bootleg barkeep, a lost dog and the final Independent Marketplace 1.0.
Thursday, February 14, 2013
The last-minute mission certainly seemed sexy enough at first: Play guest bartender for the last Independent Marketplace in Sand City, a Feb. 7 event which had the makings – fire-dancing, flash mob, acrobatics, Mundaka tapas, Carmel Valley Ranch tacos, La Balena pastas, Valentine’s theme, fresh-shucked oysters and Le P’tit Paysan wines – of an all-out epic. It would help event organizers and Jeff Moses, who was manning the conjoining craft beer booth for the marketplace’s 501(c)(3). And it would be happening in a bustling cement maw that would never be the same, since construction on a permanent commerce space organizers have dreamed will be a “flip flops-and-family version of the San Francisco Ferry Building” would begin the very next day.
Only the assignment suddenly proves farther from sexy – and closer to stressy – five minutes after I agree, as I am surprised with a bonus directive: Come up with three or four, er, “mixology”-style cocktails that could be prepped easily enough to serve en masse to a thirsty throng that is expected to double January’s numbers. OK.
I have less than a day as it is, but at least Moses is promising some folks to juice for me, so even though the next day is committed to AT&T Pro-Am coverage and filling in for a skeleton staff at the paper, I am feeling we can pull it off.
I remain optimistic until the pug puppy escapes into the Seaside streets.
~ ~ ~
Someday in the-not-too-distant future, as they drift from the new wine bar, past stalls filled with salumis and jams, buying bread and seafood and coffee, people will describe the raw cement-framed scene with nostalgia. Remember the jumping and hula-hooping by the stage? The Sirens of the Sur dance-crobats balancing on hands and dangling from trapezes? The rush of shopping, sipping, eating and shucking? The stream of epicurean and artistic who’s whos? The raw, unfinished, experimental feeling?
I don’t need people to describe the cocktails that way. But I want to add my part to the party too. So from dinner downtown the night before I seek out master alchemists.
A rare empty seat at Anthony Vitacca’s Montrio Bistro bar lets me sample a Jalisco Rose – Cazadores silver, Cointreau, cranberry and fresh lime juice ($10) – while I scour his menu for simple (and repeatable) greatness like the peach mojito (Bacardi peach rum, fresh mint and lime, $10). We settle on the Mambo with equal parts citrus vodka and coconut rum with lime and basil. Easy. Yum.
A similar exercise occurs in the onyx glow of 1833’s bar up Alvarado Street: Master Mike Lay tutors grasshopper while dangling tales of a refreshed seasonal bar menu right around the corner. I consider the fresh Pimm’s Cup (Pimms #1, lemon juice, cherry, ginger beer, $10), sip a beloved Penicillin No. 1 (Famous Grouse blended scotch, honey, lemon, ginger, Laphroiag float, rocks, $10) but settle on the Gold Rush for game time: bourbon, fresh lemon, nice honey. For Valentine’s purposes it’ll be called “Oh Honey.”
A consulting call to Bar Cart Alchemy’s Katie Blandin summons two more key components: One, the punch approach. “With all those people, you have to do it,” she says. Two, the knockout punch, a recipe that I’ll keep for years – visit the blog for recipes – and we tag “Pucker Punch.” But it needs some fresh rosemary. Which provides a twist.
~ ~ ~
The other pug, the one shaped like a tiny dumptruck, looks at me like, “I told her we had it pretty good here.”
She wasn’t listening. She was out the door I hadn’t quite kicked closed as I carried in rosemary branches and a box of antique bottles from St. Vincent De Paul thrift store a half hour before kickoff.
Panic was already in play at this point, at least with Moses, who on his way for booze tells me there is no way I can pull off the complicated operation I have planned. I tell him all I really need is juicers juicing. Only they’re late. And so was I. With a pug darting north.
I drive through the neighborhood yelling Ruby’s name and calling my roomie, the Seaside PD and SPCA for Monterey County. The dispatcher at SPD tells me he has “real police stuff to do,” declining to ask her breed or name. SPCA helps me fill out a lost dog form.
As I arrive tardy, marketplace co-founder Todd Champagne has already dropped off blackberry-lemon jam – perfect for Blandin’s tequila-jam-grapefruit juice-rosemary-Ginger People beer punch – and local honey. I start muddling. And mumbling juice and pug prayers.
~ ~ ~
The greatest discoveries are experimental by nature. So it’s gone with the Independent Marketplace, which succeeded in its ultimate, albeit quiet goal: Finding tenants for the unfinished first floor at 600 Ortiz in Sand City, which is scheduled to open in autumn.
So it went with its most inventive installment, where many of the greatest joys of a vibrant market – bartering wowser Garden Variety cheese and Local Catch Monterey shuckers for drinks and seeing 200 folks you’re happy to catch up with, even while sloshing four drinks a minute from just-mixed bowls and buckets – were relentless.
So it went with my assignment, which in many ways reflected the wider operation: With the aid of volunteers who materialized when we needed them most, juices got squeezed just in time. With crazed improvisation and clutch ingredients from Happy Girl, the drinks turned out nearly as good as they do at their home bars. And as long as you value the ability to give away drinks and replenish punches on the fly over drink consistency and general hygiene, I made due.
So it went with lil’ Ruby, too. She took a chance on a crazy play and landed in a place where she was adored – with a b0and of tattooed and edgy friends at a halfway house up the hill – quite an adventure already behind her, and halfway home.