As we have reported in the past, changes have occurred at Central 214 with the addition of Graham Dodds in the kitchen bringing his own remarkable spin on the farm to table cooking. Along with his wonderful menu (and we take a look at the latest incarnation of this menu early next week) Dodds also recruited a special bartender, Amber West.
West comes from an incredible culinary family. You may recognize her brother Adam West most recently at ZaZa’s Dragonfly in Dallas, and since promoted as the executive chef at Monarch in Houston. Both siblings in the West family appreciate farm fresh ingredients and seek them out with enthusiasm.
In the case of lead bartender Amber West she grows many of her favorite herbs at home, but has also convinced management at the Hotel Palomar Dallas to allow her a little garden on the hotel’s patio. West hints she wants more space, and if you see her smile no doubt she will get her way.
Balance is the key. For life, for cocktails, for everything…
When not using something produced from her own green thumb she is an avid proponent of Tom Spicer. She will often forage special ingredients for fusions and sauces in the chef’s stash of greenery. Today she borrowed an armful of arugula that was clipped just hours earlier from Spicer’s backyard urban garden.
“There is this special drink I make using arugula that introduces people to gin. I always say they should try this one and if they don’t love it they get their money back. They always end up ordering two,” said West.
This special drink she refers to uses an ounce of simple syrup that employs Graham’s honey, a stiff two ounces of Hendrick’s gin and she muddles through a pile of arugula. The drink is fresh and inviting and one of my favorites for the coming summer swelter.
“Balance is the key. For life, for cocktails, for everything,” West giggled. Never have truer words been spoken. In a land where many of the cocktails presented as “craft cocktails” most can be cloyingly sweet and overdone. My arugula and Hendrick’s was perfectly balanced and smooth.
West goes on to make a smash using a Yamazaki, a 12-year old Japanese single malt Scotch whiskey, and infuses the flavors of fresh mint and bitters for a perfectly smooth libation that will set you on your feet asking for more.
Our evening visit with West ended with her pouring a perfect Sazarac, a drink she is especially fond of and wistfully stirs.
You can meet Amber West this weekend as she competes at the Margarita Meltdown in the Bishop Arts district Sunday, May 27, 2012. She will also be competing in a special cocktail throw down at the upcoming four day Texas Craft Cocktail event starting June 14, 2012. Otherwise you can see her most evenings behind the bar at Central 214.
Ask for the arugula.