Subscribe or leave a review in iTunes.
In this episode of the Find Dining Podcast, we speak with Frank Martucci, the General Manager of Beverage Operations at the Twin River Casino and the National Vice President of the United States Bartenders’ Guild. We talk discuss whiskey, bourbon, rum and bitters.
- Find out more about the Taste Trekkers Food Tourism Conference
- Visit the Twin River Casino website
- Visit the United States Bartenders’ Guild website
- Thomas Tew Rum is a single barrel rum distilled in Newport
- The International Bartenders Association hosts the World Cocktail Championship
- The Sons of Liberty distillery is in North Kingstown
- Jim Beam has released a white whiskey called Jacob’s Ghost
- Try some whiskey from Death’s Door Spirits in Wisconsin
- Fred & Steve’s is a great steakhouse at the Twin River Casino
- Cook & Brown has been nominated for a James Beard Foundation Award two years in a row
- The Dorrance and Farmstead in Providence have amazing cocktails
- DeWolf Tavern and Persimmon in Bristol are great restaurants
- Project Broken Wheel fixes up bikes and donates them to children
Food for Thought:
- Q: What is the difference between bourbon and whiskey?
- A: Bourbon is from the U.S., its base spirit must be made of at least 51% corn, and it must be aged in a new oak barrel for at least 2 years.
Out of the Frying Pan Picks:
- Favorite Bartender: Jesse at Justine’s
- Favorite Seafood Restaurant: Boat House in Tiverton
- Favorite Place to Take Out-of-Town Guests: Spain in Cranston and Narragansett, Pineapples on the Bay in Newport, Persimmon or DeWolf Tavern in Bristol, The Dorrance or The Eddy in Providence
- Favorite Place to go before Waterfire: The Red Fez, Gracie’s, Birch
- Favorite Italian Restaurant: Constatintino’s Venda Bar & Ristorante, Siena, North, Nick’s on Broadway
- Favorite Chefs: Champe Spiedel from Persimmon
Seth: This is episode number 58 of the Fine Dining Podcast, and we’re going drinking in Rhode Island.
Female Speaker: This is the Fine Dining Podcast for foodies, who love travel, and travelers, who love food. Here’s your host, Seth Resler.
Seth: Hello and welcome to the Fine Dining Podcast. This is the podcast for foodies, who love travel, and travelers who love food. I’m your host, Seth Resler. Here’s how it works.
Each week, we go to a different city and we find somebody who really knows the local culinary scene, and we talk to them about what’s going on there. Now, of course, for the last couple of weeks, we have been previewing the upcoming 2013 Taste Trekker’s Food Tourism Conference. This is the nation’s first event for people who plan their vacations around food. So, we’ve been talking to a lot of the speakers that are going to be presenting there at the conference. And today, we’ve got another great one.
We are talking to Frank Martucci. He is the GM of Beverage Operations of the Twin River Casino in Rhode Island. He also is the National Vice President of the US Bartender’s Guild. Frank, thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us this morning.
Frank: Thank you very much. It’s great to be on the line with you. I’m looking forward to the conference.
Seth: I get excited every time we talk to somebody, who really knows cocktails and really knows drinks, because there’s something cool about that to me; so I’m excited to have you on. We’re going to talk to you a lot about—well first of all, what a GM of Beverage Operations does and about your work with the United States Bartender’s Guild. And then, for people coming in to Providence for the conference, we’re going to talk to you a little bit about the cocktail scene going on in Rhode Island.
And, let’s give credit where credit’s due. You’re a big part of the reason it has a great cocktail scene. I mean, you’ve done a lot to really up it there.
Frank: Well, it’s great to embrace the culture of food and beverage, and I’m very fortunate for Twin River Casino gave me the opportunity to share my passion for the business.
Seth: Alright—so before we get into all that, I know you’ve got a trivia question for me. What is it?
Frank: Let’s go with—what classifies a bourbon?
Seth: What classifies a bourbon? So, what makes a bourbon a bourbon?
Frank: Yes, if I am a true bourbon, how do I get classified? What’s the difference between a bourbon and whiskey, I guess?
Seth: So, what’s the difference between a bourbon and whiskey?
Seth: I’m going to guess it has something to do with geography, and it has something to do with where it’s from.
Frank: You’re close.
Frank: Very close
Seth: What makes a bourbon not a whiskey?
Frank: Yes, what’s the difference between a bourbon and a whiskey?
Seth: I’ve got to think about that. We’re going to come back to that, as we always do, because this is really just a ploy to make people listen longer. I’ll be honest about that; that’s what it is. So, we’ll come back to that, and we’ll get the answer to that question.
In the meantime, let’s talk about you. Let’s talk about how you started doing what you’re doing. How did you get into the world of spirits? Where did you start?
Frank: I grew up in New Jersey, and I tended bar when I was in college, from the Princeton area in New Jersey and I was fortunate to shake some margaritas at a local establishment in Princeton and, kind of, grew with the industry at a college. I worked for Trihouse Restaurants for about 11 years, and kept pulled over to the gaming aspect of it about 9 years ago, and I’ve been a bartender for about 7 now.
When I got the position at Twin River 7 years ago, I just wanted to embrace the new role in beverage. I’m very fortunate just with the boom and food and beverage industry about the fresh farm to-table concept, and stuff like that.
Just looking around—I mean, all your travelers and the food conference that you’re putting on, I think, will show of the amazing restaurants that are out there nowadays, and we have some amazing distilleries across the country, too. So when people do travel, you’ll get some premium food products up there, but there are some premium distillers out there that you can always travel to, as well.
I’m very excited about that—and also the wineries and also the breweries, as well. It’s been an amazing growth in the last 10 years, I would say, with the beverage piece.
Seth: So, in other words, people are now starting to think about beverages the way that they think about food.
Frank: Yes, and I think people’s palates have continued to change. I think, some of these social media and some of these TV shows have shown some growth with the food portion and also the beverage piece of it, as well. So, people’s palates are changing. You see that in the restaurant culture. You see that at definitely at Twin River Casino. With that piece of it, a lot of it has changed.
Seth: Tell me exactly—what does a vice president of Beverage Operations do on a day-to-day basis? What is your role?
Frank: As a general manager, I oversee a facility with four high-volume bars. I could equip the casino bars with beverage servers, implement training programs, education, daily sales, revenue enhancements. I always try to keep the menus fresh and updated. I try to educate the guests and our employees with the best products that are out there nowadays.
It’s a fulltime job, which I love doing. I love sharing the knowledge with my employees. It’s embracing the craft of the cocktail and the beverages, and so being responsible. We can’t leave that out of the segment at all. It’s so important nowadays—that we serve our guests and that we understand what’s behind the bottle, the proof of the bottle or the wine or the beer that we’re serving, and that we make sure they get home safe.
With that also, people nowadays don’t drink as much. Sometimes, they want more of a quality cocktail versus quantity. I think a lot more people are looking for that savory cocktail and a better quality cocktail versus drinking three or four vodkas. They’d rather have different types of spirits to consume; not that vodka’s bad. There are lots of qualities of vodka, but there’s so much out there right now. The trends are booming.
Seth: So, you’re overseeing four different bars. Do you look to give each of them a different character in the menu?
Frank: Yes. One is an entertainment bar with flare and dance bartenders, and competitions, high energy, and live music. Another one is a cigar craft cocktail bar, so we do craft spirits, beers, and wines—and do stuff like that—so we’re probably in the remodeling stage for a sandbar location. Next time anyone’s in town, stop by. Hopefully, we’ll be up and running with a new concept in that piece of it, as well.
We have a nice VIP lounge; for players, also a butler suite. And our property—a sunset bar location, which also oversees the casino floor for some fun cocktails that are open on weekends.
Seth: What kind of drinks am I going to find at the cigar bar that I’m not going to find in the other places? How do you do that differently?
Frank: We try to do a little bit more craft and modern mixology at that bar, so we’ll do some foams and some—we have something with Thomas Tew Rum, which is a rum out of Newport, Rhode Island. It won a bunch of awards and is getting distributed nationally now, but it’s a true original, kind of, rum with black strap molasses. It’s also single-barrel, so we pair that off with a little Falernum which is a West Indies liqueur. We’ll be speaking about that at the conference. It’s a great homage back to how punches and cocktails were made back in the olden days, but it’s also of the draft system. So again, saying you had beer out of it, you get a nice full fresh cocktail, with fresh lemon and Orgeat and black tea—so stuff like that.
We have over there some more different crafts. We use some foaming, some uh, a Perlini system, which carbonates the cocktails. It’s a fun, different experience. We dive back into it—Negronis and the Blood and Sand cocktails, and stuff like that.
Seth: You mentioned foaming. Some people aren’t familiar with. Tell me a little bit about what that is.
Frank: Foaming is this neat device the way, say, you use kind of dispensing almost like a whip cream canister. It foams, so it gives you a chance to put an egg white kind of experience. Refrigerate it, and you can blend different types of spirits, or fruits, or vegetables into the foam to give it enhancement flavors.
So, if I want to do a simple margarita but I want to put a nice Grand Marnier foam on it, I can get it, shake it up, and top it with a foam on top. It enhances the cocktail appearance—and stuff like that—as well.
Seth: Very cool.
Seth: What do you look for in bartender? When you’re looking to hire somebody, what are the traits that you are really after?
Frank: Guest Service is what we strive for at Twin River Casino. You can’t teach that. That’s something that’s someone’s passionate about or understands. It’s the number one thing—that we can give and deliver a great service, but that they also appreciate and want to embrace the bartending aspect of it because it continues to change, and we want to always make sure of that—but guest service is always the number one. A passion for the business is probably number two—great attendance, and a smiling face is there, as well.
Seth: You are also doing a lot of work with the United States Bartender’s Guild. You’ve just been named the National VP. Tell me about that organization, and tell me what they do.
Frank: It has 41 chapters, 3,000 members. I’m fortunate to be elected as the National Vice President, but our platform is education—just as it is at Twin River Casino—networking, competitions; I recently came back from Prague as a delegate for the 62nd World Cocktail Championships with 58 countries, which was amazing.
Seth: Very cool—so what happened there?
Frank: We had 58 countries that were competing in Prague for the World Cocktail Championships; in Finland wound up winning the best cocktail of the world this year, and the best team effort was from Poland. We came in 15th in the world in flare, which is amazing. I don’t know our placement in the cocktail, but it’s a great experience to do that.
When you go there, it’s interesting that people ask you where you work, what you do, what the trends are of America. I was able to talk with people from Japan. When I arrived, I took a bus over with people from Israel, Japan, and Australia just to understand their culture—where they are with the beveraging.
And those countries were amazing. To understand what some stuff that may be coming over the States are already being developed, by either Grand Marnier or by Suntory Whiskeys, or a different company, are amazing, because it gives us an edge on the upcoming things that are “coming across pond”—as they call it in London—or across the ocean, and stuff like that.
It’s amazing, kind-of-networking and competition thing—so just learning how the bartenders and management craft their spirits.
Seth: What were some of the differences that you noticed? Was there anything—and first of all, are we ahead of the rest of the world; are we behind?
Frank: I think we are ahead of the rest of the world. In a lot of things, I think they embrace the culture of taking care of the guest a lot. It’s not about slinging drinks, as some of our bartenders do across the States, here. It’s more about proper service and delivering a great quality drink versus something—and I think that’s what the Bartending Guild and Twin River kind of focuses on—delivering a quality drink versus slamming something down in front of the guest.
I see that on a lot of the countries—that they really care. They’re very particular about how they deliver their drinks. Some countries don’t get gratuitized for bartending, so it is almost a passion of the bartending and understanding it, and stuff like that.
Some, on the world, are still stuck on a “Jackie and Cokes”—as they call it over in Germany—but a lot of the countries are ahead in embracing the spirit piece of it, as well. It’s definitely a great thing.
I spoke with Moldova about their cocktail scene. They still have the olden wineries and also their beers, but they’re trying to embrace some of the spirits, as well. It’s amazing that London has their gin concept, which is kind of “London and gin go together”, but they’re embracing the whiskey piece of it over there, as well. They can’t get enough of our American whiskey. The world whiskies are really on a high trend.
Seth: You’ve been talking to people and really been looking at how mixology has changed and bartending history has changed, let’s say, in 10 years-15 years. What are some of the differences that you’ve seen?
Frank: We’re definitely seeing a bunch of new distilleries popping up across the country. I think it’s giving a run to the market across the seas. A lot of these vodkas, a lot of whiskeys—just the whole trend of the freshness; that people are looking to get a good quality product out there, nowadays is what I’m seeing.
I think the educational piece, I think some people are kind of stand-off on education until they really embrace it, and they went to embrace it. I think they love that piece of it. I see that at Twin River Casino when we educate our employees. All the sudden they want more stuff; or they’re asking for different seminars and they want to understand different products.
The social media aspect has been huge, in terms of getting the beverage industry together, in terms of either blogs or information or articles. In America, I see the distilleries popping up across the country.
Seth: Is this similar to this craft-brew movement that happened in beer?
Frank: Yeah, you know, growing up in New Jersey. I remember first bartending, and I remember Sam Adams being the—
I don’t know, this was like—their cook there was $15 for a twelve pack, and everybody’s like, “What are you doing?” Nowadays—it’s a trend now.
It’s amazing. I think people 10-15 years ago didn’t take the craft beers thing was going to be successful. Nowadays, if you look in a draft line, it’s maybe one or two domestic beers, and that’s a domestic being more of the Buds and the Miller’s. A lot of their counterparts are now the Loose Cannons and the Sam Adams of the world.
I guess innovation is something that—the word I would say, in the last 10 years, I’ve seen too…brands being more innovative in terms of what their products is.
Seth: You talked about the education piece. If somebody wants to understand more about this, if they want to educate themselves in terms of cocktails, where’s a good place to start?
Frank: First, I would tell them not to go to a trade school. I would tell them to jump online, honestly join the United States Bartending Guild, or go to college or network yourself that way, I think it’s to understand each of the spirits better. What some of these other classes teach you isn’t the direction you should go.
Seth: Why is that?
Frank: I’ve been saying, sometimes you put a degree out there that’s not well blended and some of these programs that are out there, that I see—a person can come out and make a Woo Woo, but they can’t make a Negroni or understand the difference between a bourbon and a whiskey.
Seth: A little too much focus on the how, and not enough on the why.
Frank: Yes, and it’s not about just slinging drinks, and it’s not a Tom-Cruise kind of a thing. There’s a lot of education and a lot of responsibility.
Seth: Well, speaking of learning the difference between a bourbon and a whiskey, we’re going to come back in just a moment. We’re going to find out the answer to your trivia question. We’re also going to delve in a little bit to the Rhode Island scene and find out what’s going on there and what you like, because I know that you have really shaped the mixology scene there. We’re going to talk a little bit about that, and then we’re going to play Out of the Frying Pan. That’s coming up next.
Before we get back with the interview with Frank, I want to talk about the Taste Trekker’s Food Tourism Conference. This is the nation’s first event for people who plan their vacations around food. If that’s you; if when you travel, the first thing you’ve got to know is, “Where do we eat?” you definitely want to come check out this event.
We’re going to have people talking about cuisines from all different regions. Frank and Brent Ryan, the distiller of Thomas Tew Rum—they’re going to do a session on the history of rum throughout New England. We’re going to have sessions on the chocolate of Madagascar, on Ceviche from Peru on Durham, North Carolina, where they’re doing all sorts of exciting culinary things; ice cider from Vermont. Somebody’s going to talk about honey from different regions. We’re actually going to do honey-tasting. It’s going to be fantastic.
We have the curator of the Johnson & Wales’ Culinary Museum coming in to talk about the history of food trucks and how food trucks are different in different parts of the country. It’s going to be absolutely fantastic.
The keynote address is going to be delivered by Chef Matt Jennings, who has been nominated for multiple James Beard Awards for Best Chef Northeast. He’s also won the Cochon 555 Competition three years in a row—had to retire himself from the competition.
We’re really excited to have it. It’s all happening at September 20th, 21st, and 22nd in Providence, Rhode Island. Head over to TasteTrekkers.com and check it out. We’d love to have you.
I am talking to Frank Martucci. He is the General Manager of Beverage Operations of the Twin River Casino, in Lincoln, Rhode Island. He is also the National Vice President of the US Bartender’s Guild.
And, you had a trivia question for me. Give it to me one more time, Frank.
Frank: The trivia question would be, “What is the difference between a bourbon and a whiskey?”
Seth: The difference between a bourbon and a whiskey—and you said that it had something to do with geography. I think bourbon has to come from Kentucky. Is that right?
Seth: I don’t know. What’s the difference then?
Frank: Bourbon has to be made in America, which is amazing—that’s the big piece of it. It has to consist at least 51% corn; and its base, of the spirit. So, when you’re making it, it has at least 51%. It has to be aged for a minimum of 2 years in American barrel.
Basically, every spirit starts of as neutral spirit—almost like a vodka or gin, in terms of color. And basically, how everything gets color is through an aging process. An aging process for a bourbon would be placed into a new American oak barrel, aged for up to 2 years, 51% corn base in terms of that piece of it. That’s the true almost-definition without getting a little bit too more, geekier on you.
Whiskeys or anything else can be made otherwise. So basically, bourbon is a form of whiskey; it’s made in America. Bourbons, by true classification, has to be at always least 51% corn, has to be laid down to rest for a minimum of two years in a new American oak barrel.
Seth: So, let me ask you—
Seth: If somebody who’s trained, somebody like you, can you taste something and go, “Yes, that one’s a bourbon, and that one’s just a whiskey.”? Can you—?
Frank: Yes, I think so—definitely. I think with the aging process and stuff like that, you can definitely taste some difference. Rye whiskeys are huge nowadays. I mean, talking about trends things and stuff like that, and different things—but they’re probably only be considered to have bourbon in America, so it’s a win for us.
Seth: I mean, is there some politics involved in that? For example, champagne can only come from a certain region of France.
Frank: No, it’s basically the label. I think that Poland and the vodka belt region probably made a mistake years ago. Not to classify, the vodka had to come from a certain region. I know this article I’ve been reading lately that Poland’s coming back and is trying to forge some articles into a corporation to make an all fact of the true original spirit of Poland, or something I’m reading about.
It’s great. Everything has its classifications. When you go over to Scotland and try their whiskeys, a lot of the taste profiles that you’re getting from there are because of the environment. A lot of the true flavors that you get from different ingredients are because—our profiles from different spirits are because of the regions of the world that they come from and also the soils and the plantation, and stuff like that.
When you talk about rums and stuff like that, which we’ll be talking about in your conference, a lot of that—the bananas, the stuff, and the profiles that you get off on some rums—are due to the climate, and stuff like that, and how the sugar press is made, and stuff like that.
A lot of it has to do with regionionality and origin, in terms of the spirit, which is amazing.
Seth: Let’s talk about the region that you’re in then, which is Rhode Island in sort of the Northeast. You know, I don’t know if it’s right to say what spirits are from there, but how does that region shape the spirits that are there?
Frank: We’re very fortunate. Rum was big and kind of came into the ports back in the days. Rhode Island was, back in the day, the number one exporter-importer of slaveries. Slaves used to come into Bristol, Rhode Island at one time it was the biggest stock for slaveries, and we used to exchange molasses and other objects in terms of slaves—which is sad, but it’s a true fact.
Rum was a big part of that piece of it and back in the days as well in terms of a probation—and stuff like that—Rhode Island was a huge probation state, and not legal; speakeasies were throughout Providence and Newport and the whole region.
Rhode Island definitely has a big piece of cocktail history. We’ve been able to open up a couple of great distilleries down in Newport with Thomas Tew Rum. And also, in North Kingstown with Sons of Liberty have an un-aged bourbon—they’re trying to get it. It’s not aged for two years yet, but it should be coming out soon—also, there’s good vodka down there as well.
Then, there are these pop-up breweries all over the place and some great wineries, with some national acclaimed wines that have won some awards that Rhode Island- as a small state as it is—definitely has some great spirits, but I think you know have been blessed two years in a row now to be named “The Number One City for Food”.
Seth: And I left three years ago, but it seems like there have been a lot of—
Frank: Yeah, we miss you.
Seth: Thank you. It seems like there have been lots of great little breweries and distilleries that have opened up since then, but let’s start with the one that you’ve mentioned a couple of times now, which is Extreme Brewing, who brews Newport Storm Beer and Thomas Tew Rum. I know that you are giving your session with Brent Ryan, who is the distiller.
Frank: Yes, great friend of both of ours. Brent has done an amazing job, along with Eric and the rest of the team, on opening up the concept back in the day when we got out of college, at Colby College.
They have a great bunch of seasonal beers now that they’ve been able to do—a blueberry beer at top notch. A few years ago, they have the barrel, so why not try to do rum? And, I think that Brent nailed it with his single-barrel rum. Thomas Tew Rum has a little history behind that, as well.
So, great—once you had it; mentioned it before—the blackstrap molasses, the aging process.
Seth: What is single barrel rum? What does that mean?
Frank: Small batch single barrel—a lot of the high profile spirits nowadays make a smaller batch, which is basically—the master distiller decides on how to select those for small batch, which is when you go from huge vats into smaller barrels. These barrels are hand-selected as a batch. A small batch will be a Maker’s Mark or would be Woodford Reserve; a lot of other ones—Booker’s, Baker’s, Basil —in terms of spirits. And then, single barrel, which is basically hand-selected by the master distillers, is exactly what it says; it comes from one barrel right into the bottle.
A lot of times nowadays, you’ll see bottles will have the barrel numbers on them and the date. The date says the exact barrel that it’s coming out from -just because of the trend—and stuff like that. So you’re seeing a lot more small batch in—the single barrel—and especially because the small distilleries are able to do smaller batch quantity, so you see that a lot more nowadays, too.
Seth: When I’m tasting a Thomas Tew Rum, what is the flavor profile? What is going to be different from, say, my Bacardi?
Frank: Bacardi’s a great rum. Bacardi has so many different profiles out there. They have aged rums, too. Their number 8 bottle—it does really well. It’s an aged rum. It’s “laid to rest” as we call it, and aged for 8 years—for a minimum of 8 years, depending on how it is.
It is just, you know—once it’s in the oak barrel, it gains a characteristic. I believe Brent probably laid his down to rest for at least two years to get the classification for his rum—but it adds a profile. Once again, it all depends on the climate. There are some banana notes, some peppery notes sometimes—depending on each bottle of what you taste or different things. There are some vanilla notes that come out of it; some almond notes, some nutty notes. It all depends on each of the spirits and then what you taste off of it.
Seth: And it’s just like wine, where different years will yield something a little bit different, right?
Frank: Yes, we call that “angel dust”. There’s a bunch of—because each barrel loses an x-amount of product through the air, and that’s called “Angel’s Share”. The Angel’s Share is what goes out. What’s leftover is the true original part of it—we call it the “heads and tails” of making.
When you’re making a spirit they want to separate. You want to take the body. You don’t want the head of the spirit or the tail of the spirit. You want the body of the spirit to make it true. That’s what the master distiller picks out and bottles.
Seth: You mean that there’s a certain amount of the spirit that is just tossed?
Frank: Yes. Even before it comes into the barrel, there’s a great amount to it that’s usually tossed. Vodkas and gins—and stuff like that—don’t see any barrel aging. There’s the beginning of it, which is kind of heavy; and there’s the end of it—the heart and the tail of it—which is usually aren’t good. The master distiller picks out that in between piece to bottle.
Seth: And that’s based on time? How do you find the head and the tail?
Frank: He just taste-taste, and all of a sudden, he gets a piece, and he says “cut”. It’s called the “cut”. The cut is basically when you cut the head and when you cut the tail. The rest of it is the full body.
Seth: Well, this is fascinating. So, you and Brent Ryan will be doing a session at the Taste Trekker’s Conference. You’re going to talk about that.
Frank: Yes, we’re looking forward to it. It’s going to be on history. Brent is going to talk about the history of rum. I’ll put some interesting points in that I might have. We’re going to taste the Link cocktail, which is made here at Twin River Casino. I’ll give a little history on that. I’m also going to do some profile in terms of, “If you are travelling around the world, what do you expect?”
If you go to Martinique, there is some great agricole rhum and the different profiles on that. If you go to Brazil or if you go to Jamaica or to the United States, we have some great rum across the country, all the way to Colorado and Newport and different region. The rums are popping up.
Seth: You also mentioned Sons of Liberty. They’re going to be there, as well. They’re going to be in our tasting pavilion. Tell me a little bit about them.
Frank: Once, they had a great whiskey that they put out. I think they have a new hop there, as well. They’re doing some of my favorite profiles with some vodkas—big fan of the Mint Cucumber; great people, great distiller down in North Kingston, a great supporter of Twin River Casino. And also, this Rhode Island, in general—they really embrace the hospitality industry. It’s great.
Seth: Anybody else up and coming that we should note?
Frank: There are so many different things—tiki drinks are becoming more popular. Nowadays, you might see some tiki bars popping up and maybe some tiki cocktails to go around with some food.
Seth: I just think of sort of the bamboo and the wooden mask—what makes the tiki bar a really authentic tiki bar?
Frank: An authentic tiki bar—I mean it’s a whole understanding tiki drinks and everything, from “mai tai” to the “original zombie”, as they call it—recipes like that. I can go on and on, but tiki drinks are becoming really popular… more of the bitters. And so, everyone and their brothers is putting out a bitters nowadays. So, bitters have continued to be very popular—and the flavored bitters.
Mescal—is huge right now, people are loving that smoky taste, so mescal is on the rise. Gin is seeing a comeback on the gin category. We’re even seeing it here at at Twin River Casino about a little rise in gin category. The bourbon and whiskeys are going crazy. Jameson kind of started a while ago, and I think whiskeys—they’ll definitely be “the brown spirits”, as they call it—are going to continue to rise.
You’ll probably see, if you haven’t seen it already also, some white whiskeys now, which are un-aged. They stayed at very limited times in barrels. I think that might be a little bit popular on Jim Beam’s coming out with the Ghost. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the other distillers are coming out with some stuff as well to take some market share away from some of the other ones.
Death’s Door was one of the original ones that came out from Wisconsin—great little of distiller down there. If anybody wants to travel to Wisconsin, you’ve got a great distiller with Death’s Door Distilleries.
Seth: Good to know. Let me ask you about some of the places to go for a cocktail. Obviously, we head over to Twin River…
Seth: … and who has table games now, by the way. That’s brand new, right?
Frank: Yes, table games are brand new. We’re very excited—66 table games on property and a great steakhouse, an acclaimed steakhouse, and some great cocktails, 150-plus on wine list—so some great food and cocktail pairings that you can get up at Fred & Steve’s Steakhouse.
Seth: The steakhouse is fantastic.
Frank: Yes—owned by Fred Smerlas and Steve DeOssie, two former New England Patriots players. I put that up with any of the steakhouses out there. It definitely has some great awards and great cocktails.
Seth: Where else would you go in Rhode Island, in Providence in particular?
Frank: I’ll definitely give accolades to Cook & Brown—nominated two times in a row for their bar menu, their cocktail menu—which is amazing—by the James Beard nomination, which everyone should know. James Beard is an amazing nomination to get. They have been for the last two years. It started out a category two years. So, to get nominated in the first two years is definitely amazing, with the amount of restaurants across the country and the bar scene—so congratulations to them. Also, a great culinary program—they have over there.
The Dorrance—amazing cocktail, amazing atmosphere, great food, great presentation as well; the Farmstead—I know he going to be your keynote speaker at the conference—great cocktails as well over there and some great food pairing.
Locally, I live in Bristol, so DeWolf Tavern is also great. I think Champe’s going to be there as well.
Seth: Yes, yes, from Persimmon.
Frank: Persimmon, one of our favorite spots to go. The bartender won the Don Julio competition recently, but Persimmons is always acclaimed. And, what we know is he’s up there for the James Beard Award, as well. Champe has a great job with his wife and team.
Seth: I like these picks, because a lot of them are going to be there—Taste Trekkers; DeWolf Tavern’s going to be there; Persimmon’s going to be there.
Frank: Oh, excellent.
Seth: Our cocktail reception is at The Dorrance.
Seth: Frank, one thing I want to ask you about, before we get into a little game here—Out of the Frying Pan—tell me what Project Broken Wheel is.
Frank: Project Broken Wheel—we started that down in Newport, Rhode Island; eight years ago maybe now. It’s a hospitality kind of program that Twin River definitely helps embrace and supports. Today, we’ve been able to donate about 400 bikes back into the community for under-privileged children—we receive them from local communities and friends and police stations. We repair the bicycles and give them away, twice a year, to under-privileged children in Rhode Island.
We’re fortunate to have delivered up about 40 bikes down to a shelter down at Red Hook, New York. This past Christmas as well, we donated 30 bikes to those who are affected with hurricane Sandy.
It’s an amazing little project I started with some friends about eight years ago. Just to give out bikes that people aren’t using—then it kind of escalated into a great program. I just received two phone calls this week, as a matter of fact, for donations of bikes. It become a little bit almost a year round program, but it’s something that Twin River embraces. We’ve got about 40 members that come from a team from Twin River and also the USBG, and local hospitality—people help out each year, and we couldn’t do it without them.
Seth: That’s awesome. Alright, are you ready to play a little game?
Frank: I am.
Seth: Alright, this game is called “Out of the Frying Pan”. I am going to ask you for a series of rapid fire recommendations. Now, the rule is you can’t name your own places there at Twin River, because we know—
Frank: Okay, I recommend all of them at Twin River.
Seth: We already assume they’re at the top of the list. So, you work with a lot of bartenders throughout the state. If you there’s a bartender that doesn’t work for you that we should go check out—because you just think that they’re a fantastic bartender—who is it and where are they?
Frank: I would say Jesse, at Justine’s—lovely guy. I respect his cocktails, great little atmosphere. It’s right on the outskirts of Olneyville—great new pop-up craft cocktails, fun dive bar-ish kind of place—amazing.
Seth: Talk to me about seafood. Obviously, seafood is big there in Rhode Island. Where’s a great place to go for seafood?
Frank: Me and my wife love to go to the Boat House Restaurant in Silverton, Rhode Island; great company over there as well. We always like the Boat House Restaurant—great view. The muscles—they do a lemon sauce with it. It’s amazing.
Seth: Where do you take out-of-town guests to when they come in?
Frank: For quality and consistency, I’ve always loved going to Spain; two locations—one in Narraganett, one is Cranston. Great wine list, greatly priced, great quality, great service—so I always like going there. Pineapples on the Bay, at the Hyatt—I love going up there; great view of the water in Newport. You can’t beat the view. Coming in to Providence, I love Persimmons. Anytime I have the chance for a nice dinner, I always love going to Persimmons or DeWolf’s.
Once again, I recommend both those places. I love going to Dorrance for late night cocktails and finishing up the night at The Dorrance. Or, at The Eddy—they always do this amazing job with the program over at The Eddy as well.
Seth: What about for Waterfire? Waterfire is big, signature cultural event in downtown Providence, and there’s actually one on the Saturday night of our conference on September 21st. Where is a great place to go if people are headed out to Waterfire afterwards?
Frank: For cocktails, I’d hit two spots—that would be the Red…
Seth: The Red Fez?
Frank: The Red Fez—I’ve always loved that spot; great Portuguese hamburgers there that they have with the chorizo in the hamburgers and great cocktails, as well. Kind of a place—I don’t know if that’s—if I want to consider that dive bar. Kind of one of my places I go to, that’s kind of…
Frank: Yes, you know. It kind of has that little taste going on, and stuff like that as well. Gracie’s—also great for cocktails and stuff like that; I love Gracie’s over there. The Birch has opened up—small little place right next to Gracie’s, as well. That’s also nice.
Seth: Do you have a favorite Italian Restaurant? Providence is obviously known for its Italian food.
Frank: I’d go to Constantino’s outside on a nice spring or fall day, and just hanging outside with a bottle or glass wine and having some food over there. Siena’s has two locations- both doing really well—I’d put that up there. North—North, I love.
Seth: Where is North?
Frank: North and Avery—I would recommend both of those. Avery for before and after cocktails. And North—the chef used to work for Momofuku in New York City; and also, Nick’s on Broadway, which is an amazing restaurant, as well. I hope Nick’s going to be there for—and anyone from Nick’s restaurant, but great cocktail and food program at Nick’s. Both of those are great locations.
North has some great stuff. The triple fried rice is amazing over there, as well as the crab dish, too.
Seth: Okay, last question—do you have a favorite chef or any chefs that we should look out for?
Frank: I respect Champe, from Persimmon’s. I, kind of, always love him. He’s a Johnson & Wales graduate. He always gives back to the community; is well respected; love his menu. I love his vast training.
Seth: And he is also speaking at the conference. He is doing a lamb butcher demo.
Frank: Yes, looking forward to that—looking forward to that.
Seth: Yes, so it should be good. Alright, you survived the game. Thank you so much for playing. People can find all the great things that you’re doing over at Twin River. That’s located at 100 Twin River Road in Lincoln. People go online and check it out at TwinRiver.com. Also, the USBG—the United States Bartending Guild—is at USBG.org.
What about you Frank? If people want to follow you on social medias, is that possible?
Frank: Yes, “Living the Frank Life” is my total handle, and Project Broken Wheel is on Facebook, as well. Once again, just always love giving back to the community in any way we can, in terms of a hospitality trade by educational, hospitality, and also by just giving back in terms of our hands. Anything that we can do in terms of charity work, we’re big on and definitely embrace that. So thank you so much for bringing up those aspects of the beverage industry.
Seth: Thank you so much for everything you’ve done. Like I said, you are really a key player up there, in that area, in elevating the game. I think—
Frank: And anybody that I missed out on, I apologize, especially if I can’t seem to remember. There are so many amazing restaurants and people, and stuff like that. Vito at The Lancer, some comedy, and great bartending and cocktails; and Jeff.., who just left Cook & Brown, as well. They both are great quality of people, and I can go on and on.
Seth: Alright. We’ll check them out. We’ll come up and we’ll talk to you at the conference.
Frank: Yes—I can’t wait to see everyone, and please embrace the Providence and Rhode Island beveraging. We appreciate it.
Seth: Alright. Thank you so much. My name is Seth Resler. This is the Fine Dining Podcast.
A couple of show notes before we go—first of all, you can find links to many of the places that Frank mentioned on our website. Also, while you’re there, you can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes. Leave a review that helps us out quite a bit.
You can follow us on Twitter. We are @tastetrekkers. You can find us on Facebook as well. And if you’d like to be a guest, if you want to come to our podcast and talk to us about your local culinary scene, please just click the contact link and shoot us an email. We would love to have you on. Thanks so much for listening.
Female Speaker: This is the Fine Dining Podcast. You can find links to the places mentioned in this episode at TasteTrekkers.com. Thank you for listening.