Crown Jewel

A sneak peek inside Cameron Mitchell's new gastropub, The Pub

Sometimes during a great night out you get hit with that intoxicating and insane notion that everything is just right in the world and think – I should start a bar of my own.

It’s a tantalizing thought, but how many actually know what it takes to create a successful bar from scratch? With this in mind, (614) recently took a peek behind the curtain at Cameron Mitchell’s new gastropub, The Pearl (641 N High St.). Our hosts were beverage director Ryan Valentine and The Pearl’s general manager and dining room manager Amberlyn Heiney and Derek Reno, all standing behind a makeshift mixology lab in the company’s development headquarters at Crosswoods.

It is Day Eight of punches and the bar team is hitting crunch time. They have pared down the original list of 14 options to nine, and now each needs to be finalized so two punches can be added to the opening day menu.

“We’re kind of doing a bitters war here,” says Valentine. The team has two punches – citrus and baked apple bourbon – on the table in mason jars with three versions per drink: one with no bitters, one with bitters mixed in, and one with bitters on top. The interplay of aromatics and liquor hit the palette in slightly separate waves that vastly alter each drink’s flavor. “We’re down to that finite of details,” Valentine says. “If we’re gonna put bitters in a drink, we’re gonna put it in a dropper, figure out how much, and we’re gonna play with it over and over again.”

It’s a tedious prospect, but that’s required when the cocktail menu will only have six or seven concoctions at any given time. It will feature several twists on the classics, which include a 95-day, barrel-aged Manhattan, and more unexpectedly, a barrel-aged margarita. The barrel-aging was scientific, taste testing live native spirits against 30-day, 45-day, and 60-day mixtures of the margarita. The team settled on 45 days as the magic number to attain the ideal smoke and vanilla flavors.

The bar’s tastemakers are debating altering an Old Fashioned, still in its nascent stages, with a set of test-kitchen-created mixers. Candied cherry preserves, black cherry compote, and tart cherry jam fight to replace the maraschino while peach jam and orange marmalade tussle for the orange essence. Again, the range of flavors is surprisingly varied, though each would undoubtedly add more depth and punch than the traditional cherry and orange.

Not to be overlooked is beer, always integral to the gastropub experience. The development team sampled upwards of 250 brews for a menu that will eventually include only 40 bottles and 10 rotating taps. With so many styles and personal preferences in the mix, the task is nearly Herculean, albeit an enjoyable one.

“I’m not a big fan of porters for example, but we’re trying 20 porters so I’m learning what the beer’s about, what its profiles are supposed to be,” said Heiney. “One might be your favorite, but you haven’t had it up against another one that you’ve never heard of.”

The bar will offer a range of eight crowd-pleasing handles, likely including one from locals Four String, while the other two are reserved for varying rare selections for beer connoisseurs, taps that Valentine refers to as “mad scientist” drafts. One of the initial mad scientist beers has already been set – a Belgian porter from Rogue currently only served in its Oregon pubs.

A modest but food-oriented wine list composed of 40 bottles rounds out the bar menu. Valentine points out that the comparatively small sizes of the wine, cocktail, and beer lists reflect the equally reserved number of plates available from the kitchen. The process is slow and the choices are painstaking, but that’s how success is fashioned.

“You have to constantly separate yourself from what you think or what you like, to make sure that you’re thinking more globally and about the range of interest that people have,” Valentine says. “Everything has to tie back to the concept or we don’t use it.”

Citrus Punch
Ketel One Citroen
Lillet Blanc
Absinthe
Blueberry bitters
Served on ice and garnished with lemon and orange slices

Baked Apple Bourbon Punch
Bulleit Bourbon
Fresh Apple Cider
Boulard Calvados apple brandy
Rosemary syrup
Served on ice and garnished with apple slices

February 1, 2013
By Chris Gaitten
614 Magazine
Read the article here