Drink It In: NJ’s Newest Brewery; Mistral Bar’s Mixologist; Rome’s (Literal) Food as Fashion Exhibition

Conclave Brewing Opens in Hunterdon County

Carl Alfaro of Conclave Brewing

Carl Alfaro of Conclave Brewing

My story at njmonthly.com  has the scoop on the brews (espresso milk stout; farmhouse ale, e.g.) and the buds (Carl Alfaro; Tim Bouton) behind Conclave, which opens its tap room on July 11 in Raritan Township/Flemington.

Jamie Dodge Mixes Up Magic at Mistral Bar

Jamie Dodge, courtesy Elements Princeton

Jamie Dodge, courtesy Elements Princeton

This longtime favorite behind the bar at Elements in Princeton has moved over to its newest sibling, Mistral Bar, which opened in June. The Witherspoon Street bar is adjacent to Mistral the restaurant and downstairs from the soon-to-reopen Elements. I interviewed Dodge about his plans and potions for the July issue of The Princeton Echo. Here’s the story:

It’s two weeks into the June opening of Mistral Bar and bar manager/master mixologist Jamie Dodge is playing with flowers. Not just any flowers, and not as garnishes for the inventive craft cocktails he gained a following for when he was behind the bar at Elements, sibling restaurant to Mistral before it closed for relocation. And decidedly not as table decoration. No, he is playing with ten garbage bags full of black locust tree blossoms, which he has personally collected. (They are said to taste like fresh sweet peas and, like peas, are available only for a short time each spring.) “I made black locust syrup three weeks ago and can’t wait to play around with it,” he says, excitement palpable in his voice. “It may go into one of the kambuchas I’m currently making.”

Dodge, 31, is known for incorporating hyper-seasonal ingredients into the infusions, tonics, tinctures, and bitters he concocts that find their way into his creations. This bigger stage – the old Elements bar seated 10, this space 38 – has earned him some perks: a freezer for such things as large ice cubes (“I don’t have to go downstairs!”), a dishwasher, extra storage space, two mirror-image work stations, and a self-proclaimed “beautiful” bar back. He characterizes his opening menu of nine specialty cocktails as streamlined. “The first couple of weeks I wanted to ease into things,” he explains. “It was kind of an interesting way to introduce folks to a new bar. The focus was on getting the bar itself up and running.”

Dodge has already tweaked that menu, but one cocktail that remains is the Damn Son, which he characterizes as “very refreshing and on the lighter side – citrusy and spicy.” It’s concocted of Averell Damson Plum gin, Velvet Falernum (“notes of clove”), fresh lime juice, and Tiki bitters, which has primary flavors of cinnamon and allspice. Another is the Gibstress, comprising Hayman’s Old Tom gin into which Dodge has infused saffron, Dolin Blanc vermouth, and housemade chamomile bitters. Instead of a cocktail onion as garnish, he uses pickled ramp bulb. “I went out and gathered bulbs in the spring and pickled enough of them to use as my version of a cocktail onion the rest of the year,” he says. He likes to instruct guests to first take a sip of the cocktail, then bite into the bulb, then take another sip. “They’re totally different experiences – totally different flavor profiles,” says this cocktail wonk.

Mistral Bar has its own 672-square-foot-space adjacent to Mistral, and is downstairs from the new Elements, which is scheduled to open within weeks. The flattened-by-the-Mistral-wind tree sculpture has been moved over from the restaurant and fits well with the beautiful bar top – a highly polished slab of dark, dramatically grained wood. The natural stone, wood ceiling beams, and muted colors that characterize Mistral’s rustic-modern vibe are carried over here.

Dodge is also in charge of the bar’s selection of craft beers (NJ & PA are well represented), which are available on draft, bottled, and in cans, while Element’s wine director, Carl Rohrbach, has curated a short but interesting wine list. Those who dine at the u-shaped bar’s 16 seats or at the hi-tops and regular tables surrounding it, which accommodate another 22, can choose from a menu of a dozen bar bites – some of which Mistral’s chef, Ben Nerenhausen, has created for the bar alone – and a selection of some of Mistral’s small plates and other specialties, including the Mistral burger.

Dodge no longer has duties at Elements per se. Says that restaurant’s executive chef, Scott Anderson, “What I hope for every one of Elements’ guests is that they come in, get a drink downstairs to try what Jamie has to offer, and then move upstairs and sit down to a tasting menu and see the vision I’ve been building. Other than that, there’s no overlap. I mean, we’re one company and I would like to think that everybody has the same vision and ideas, but they’re different experiences. What I find fascinating is watching each person’s creative process. And it all works together.” Anderson says he purposely “does not get in the way” of Dodge or Nerenhausen and has enjoyed “watching Jamie grow over the years.”

What does Jamie Dodge drink in his free time? “Personally I love gin,” he says. “My favorite right now is Barr Hill from Vermont and my favorite gin drinks are martinis and Negronis. I also like rye, and I’m a big beer guy.” And in the dead heat of summer, he might opt for something as simple as a glass of rose or “even a margarita.”

Fashion Made of Food

italyamonews.com

italyamonews.com

My thanks to Mary Ann Fusco for bringing to my attention an exhibition at Mercati di Traiano in Rome through November 1 that examines how food has served as muse to fashion designers. You don’t need to understand English to admire, as Mary Ann advises, the spaghetti necklace and licorice root and bread dresses depicted in this story in Italyamonews.

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