The New School of Bar Snacks
What to eat with your summer patio drinks, and how to pace yourself like a chef.
September 3, 2017
By Richie Nakano | Image courtesy No Anchor
Things chefs suck at:
-Not cussing in front of children
-Financial planning for retirement
-Not leaving a trail of broken relationships in their wake
Things chefs are good at:
-Eating while drinking
A summer night out drinking with chefs is not for the faint of heart. It's hot, you're dehydrated, and bowl after bowl of salty bar nuts just isn't going to cut it. A strong takeaway from a “take lots of years off your life” night like this is that if you snack smart in-between Fernet and bourbon shots, you might just make it out alive. You want to aim for somewhere between a sophisticated night at a tapas bar, and a bacon-wrapped hot dog on a street corner at 3 am — and lucky for you, the new wave of bar food looks exactly like something you want to eat when the temperature's cranking.
So what does bar-grazing look like through the (blurry) lens of a chef? We asked two chefs at really, really, stupidly-good bars about their game plans.
Courtesy Collin Hilton
COLLIN HILTON, ABV, SAN FRANCISCO
In general, bar food has come a long way! I think we have pushed past the idea that it's just French fries and chicken wings—now, leafy greens, herbs and vegetables can easily dominate a bar menu.
The way I approach bar food at ABV is simply asking myself what the most delicious component of a meal [is], and serving just that. I'm not trying to put an entree in front of our guests. There doesn't have to be a starch, a veg, meat and a sauce on every plate. I might be at home eating a meal with some friends, and we all agree that the mushrooms in a pasta are awesome; so, I'll take that idea and run with it. (That's one of our most popular food items, the grilled Nebrodini Bianco mushrooms.)
In general, I advise anyone wanting to cook some bar bites to keep it simple. You dont need 30 components to make something tasty. I like to throw the best-looking vegetables from the farmers market on the grill, finish them with some nice olive oil and lemon, and throw whatever herb is around on it, and call it a day. Let the ingredients showcase themselves.
If I am going out for some food and a drink, I tend to flock to places that have the same mentality I have with [regard to] simplicity. Nopa and Bellota are probably my main go-to's, especially because both of them carry some fantastic dry sherry—my preferred drink with food.
Vance, Courtesy No Anchor
JEFFREY VANCE, NO ANCHOR, SEATTLE
When we first hit it, the snacks are generally something substantial but not super filling. Like, we huff three to four tacos down. Usually pork belly or potato. But definitely something spicy with cold Mexican beers. Tecate out of a can preferred.
Afterwards, we set out to see friends who are chefs or bartenders at their respective restaurants and bars. We feel a little more civilized and we move on to natural wines — whatever they are excited about. This is the best part of the night, everyone is feeling good and nobody is too shit-faced. Anywhere you go that serves this type of beverage is usually a wine bar/tapas type place or has the ubiquitous "snacks" section on their menu. But it could be anything: brandade croquettes, oysters or any raw fish dishes. And always good bread and butter.
At this point, a few of us have had a little too much and peel off home to pissed-off significant others, but for the rest of us, it's time to rally. Now we drink rye whiskey and cheap beer. We fool ourselves into thinking we are drinking less by ordering twice as many High Life ponies. And we eat pizza. Lucky for me, the homies favorite slice joint is a five-minute walk from my front door. It also has the requisite well-stocked grimy bar that we need to finish our night of overindulgence. Mushroom and olive is the hot move. And don't skimp on the red pepper flakes!
The best suggestion I would have for the non-kitchen pro drinking team is: don't skimp on the carbs. Most of you aren't gluten intolerant even if the current trends have pushed you to believe so. But if you do wanna skip the wheat, eat rice, or rice noodles, or anything else that will help sop up the copious amounts of booze poured down your gullet. As anybody that has attempted a low carb diet knows, you will be perpetually hungry and have low energy. Carbs are essential to keeping the party going.
For entertaining at home, make stuff that's easy to execute so you're enjoying the party and entertaining your guests instead of hovering over the stove. Most chefs don't cook at home often, but when they do you better believe they aren't laying out tuiles on silicone mats or tunnel-boning chickens. Stick with what you know or research something easy — if you get invited to my house for a party, you have an equal chance of being served charcuterie with quick pickles and good mustard, or some burn-the-roof-of-your-mouth microwaved Totino's pizza rolls.