Traveling to New Orleans for the first time on my way to Tales of the Cocktail — also a first for me — I was overwhelmed by the city’s celebrated architecture and hints of the vibrant French Creole culture. Almost every street corner boasts antique shops, historic hangouts and the best food from po’ boys to beignets to muffalettas. Wandering beyond the French Quarter, you find pulsating jazz clubs fueling off of the city’s seemingly unlimited effervescence.
Against that backdrop, I attended The Magic of Sidney Frank Spirited Dinner at Iris restaurant, along with Nightclub & Bar Contributing Writer Brandy Rand. Walking into Iris, we immediately were immersed in the restaurant’s otherworldly charms, indulging, without caution, in the whimsy and playfulness that pervade the restaurant.
Fortune-tellers predicted the future, a magician amazed with card tricks and a Voodoo priestess danced around, chanting and clapping throughout the restaurant. With our senses stimulated, we were treated to Chef Ian Schnoebelen’s sophisticated menu, which highlighted charcuterie; dried meats from duck prosciutto to wild boar bacon graced our plates and our palates.
Creating interesting and complex cocktails that brought out the nuanced flavors of the spirited dinner were Todd Richman, corporate mixologist for Sidney Frank Importing Co., Inc.; Spencer Warren, owner of Embury/Firehouse Lounge in Pittsburgh, Pa., which won the 2011 Nightclub & Bar Small Wonder Bar of the Year award; and Mark Stoddard, mixologist at The Bitter Bar in Boulder, Colo.
The pairing of smoked, dried and salty meats with refreshing and sweet drinks was not coincidental but a well-thought-out plan from the get-go.