Lost Pug, Amateur Bartending and the Last Independent Marketplace Love Story
February 13, 2013
The last Independent Marketplace in Sand City on Feb. 7 had the makings—think 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.
So when Sand City beer maker Jeff Moses called me a day earlier to play guest bartender, I figured it would be a fun and actually productive way to experience a bit of history.
Plus, it would help event organizers and Moses, who was manning the conjoining craft beer booth for the marketplace.
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 five minutes after agreeing, I was surprised with a bonus directive: Come up with three or four “mixology”-style cocktails—his cliché word, not mine—that could be prepped easily enough to serve en masse to a thirsty throng that was expected to double January’s numbers.
I had less than a day as it was, but at least Moses was promising to pick up supplies and provide some folks to juice for me.
So even though the next day was committed to AT&T Pro-Am coverage—and I was filling in for a skeleton staff at the Weekly—I was feeling we could pull it off.
I remained optimistic until the pug puppy (top left) escaped into the Seaside streets.
Someday in the-not-too-distant future, folks will drift from the new Independent wine bar, past stalls filled with salumis and jams, buy bread and seafood and coffee, and describe the original, raw cement-framed scene with nostalgia.
Remember the jumping and hula-hooping by the temporary stage, enough to obstruct the Cirque de Pacific Grove dance-crobats balancing on hands and dangling from trapezes?
The rush of shopping, sipping, eating and shucking sweeping everyone into general joy?
The stream of epicurean and artistic who’s whos? (We're talking Hanif Wondir, Michelle Maddox Magdalena, Eddie Banaszek, Maddox Haberdasher, The Drink Mixtress, Sarah Prewitt, Alyssa Uslaner, Lee Lightfoot, Hope Thorson, Chelsea Davey, Brandon Miller, Tim Wood, Cheryl Warner, Colleen Logan, Gabe Georis, Matt Millea, Kevin Jewell and Ramon from Post No Bills and so on and so on...)
How it was so raw, unfinished, experimental?
I didn’t need people to describe the cocktails that way. But I wanted to add my part to the party too. So from dinner downtown the night before I sought out master alchemists.
A rare empty seat at Anthony Vitacca’s Montrio Bistro bar let me sample a Jalisco Rose—Cazadores silver, Cointreau, cranberry and fresh lime juice ($10)—while I scoured his menu for simple (and repeatable) greatness like the peach mojito (Bacardi peach rum, fresh mint and lime, $10) and The Wooler (Woodford Reserve and diet coke).
While I looked things over he summoned three dry martinis with subconscious speed and smoothness.
“This guy’s for real,” says one of the orderers.
Vitacca counsels against anything that could get laborious given the crowd to come—“Trust me, I know,” he says with a wide smile—and we settle on the Mambo with equal parts citrus vodka and coconut rum with lime and basil.
A similar exercise occurs in the onyx glow of 1833’s bar up Alvarado Street: Master Mike Lay tutors grasshopper MCA while dangling tales of a refreshed seasonal bar menu right around the corner: Only the top five drinks stay, and in comes everything from theatrical liquid nitrogen to whiskeys you can’t get anywhere else.
I consider the fresh Pimm’s Cup (Pimms #1, lemon juice, cherry, ginger beer, $10 like each drink, $5.50 at social hour) and classic Sister Sarah’s Mule (vodka, lime juice, ginger soda and rocks, $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: good 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 crucial components: One, the punch approach.
“With all those people, you have to do it,” she says.
Two, the knockout punch, a profound recipe that I’ll keep for years and we thematically tag “Pucker Punch.”
But it needed some harder-to-get ingredients, like organic jams and fresh rosemary. Which led to other problems.
••• Dewey looked despondent. He's the other, older, less spastic pug, the one shaped like a little dumptruck.
He looked at me like “I told her we had it pretty good here at the house.”
She wasn’t listening. She was halfway to independence, out the door I hadn’t quite kicked closed as I carried in an armful of rosemary branches and a box of antique bottles from St. Vincent De Paul thrift store I bought for the pop-up bar.
I was late. Now the pug, collar off, was in play. But panic was already there at this point, at least with Moses, who on his way for booze told me there was no way I could pull off such a complicated operation.
I tell him anyone who asks me to come up with recipes last minute—and then says I’m doomed—is applying strange leadership strategy. And really, I add, all we need is the juicers juicing.
Only they’re late. And so am I. With a pug somewhere darting through traffic.
I drive through the neighborhood yelling Ruby’s name and call the Seaside PD and SPCA for Monterey County.
The dispatcher at SPD essentially tells me he’s being curt and unprofessional because he has “real police stuff to do,” declining to ask me her breed or her name.
Thankfully SPCA helps me fill out a lost dog form by phone.
As I arrive tardy, marketplace co-founder Todd Champagne has already dropped off sublime Happy Girl Kitchen blackberry-lemon jam—no less than perfect for Blandin’s tequila-jam-grapefruit juice-rosemary-Ginger People ginger beer punch—and local honey for the Oh Honeys.
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 actually succeeded in its ultimate, albeit quiet goal: Finding long-term tenants for the unfinished first floor at 600 Ortiz in Sand City. Marketplace co-founder Pat Orosco envisions regular attendees at the market—“Indy all-stars” as he calls them, including Penny Ice Creamery, Verve Coffee, Companion Bake Shop and Pastries and Petals—setting up permanent shop.
So it went with arguably its most inventive installment, where many of the greatest joys of a vibrant market are relentless: bartering bomb Garden Variety cheese and Local Catch Monterey shuckers for beer and spirits and seeing roughly 30 folks you’re happy to catch up with, even while sloshing four drinks a minute from just-mixed bowls and buckets.
So it went with my assignment, which in many ways reflected the wider operation. With the aid of some game volunteers who materialized last minute, juices got squeezed just in time. With some happy 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 was a serviceable barkeep.
Even my most bizarre conception, a shooter made with ginger beer, vodka and apple-root vegetable brine from HGK, found a poetic ending: When the crowds were cleared out, event manager Brian Conway was delighted to discover the remaining “Pink Heart Beets” were all his.
So it went with little Ruby, too, who tore north toward Marina, then east toward Fort Ord: She took a chance on an crazy play and landed in a place where she was adored, quite an adventure already written.
The tatted and edgy and loving guys at the halfway house didn’t want to give her up—fearful Animal Control might put her down—so they waited until Dewey showed up with my housemate and Weekly Distribution Coordinator Greg Tomascheski before they surrendered the little fast-bolting freak.
I get that sentiment. We don't want to let this crazy little thing go. But it's the only way it can reach another place.