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Into The Wild: We Take a Group of Bartenders Foraging

In our July issue of The Tasting Panel Magazine, we shared our adventure with Master Forager Pascal Bauder http://digital.copcomm.com/title/3614/106  
Here we have some exclusive web-only material / photos. Scroll to the bottom for some featured recipes.



Foraged ingredients jarred and ready for infusion magic.

We can hear the rush of traffic from the 210 freeway as we stand in front of a field strewn with litter, marring what seems to my untrained eye, an average park clearing. It's an inauspicious beginning to a day designed to teach some of L.A.'s top bartenders the basics of foraging for cocktail ingredients, so imagine my surprise when our intrepid guide, Master Forager Pascal Baudar gestures in front of us and says, "This is like a store for me. Fifty percent of what you see here is edible."
   
   Pascal Bauder is an excellent educator.

Like children observing the magic of Christmas for the first time, we are enthralled, and as Pascal explains how to recognize plants in the mustard family (one big leaf, with two pairs of two small leaves underneath), we fill tote bags with fistfuls of California sagebrush, Mexican tarragon and black sage, ready to take these found ingredients home to experiment with infusions of our own.

Pascal, a wiry Belgian who's been leading foraging trips through the wilds of Southern California for the better part of a decade, has had a major impact on the L.A. food scene, helping develop the now-flourishing farm-to-table and locovore movements by bringing some of the cities top chefs to hidden mountains, woods and canyons, where they've learned to forage the food that ends up on their gourmet plates.

A true wild food gastronomer, Pascal takes a playful, innovative look at the ingredients all around us: From using the wasabi-
   
 More infusion magic.  
flavored black mustard to make a quick mustard with some vinegar and white wine, to pulling out the tiny birdsrape mustard seeds and soaking them in fish sauce for a faux caviar, Pascal's impressive knowledge of the natural word is seamlessly married with a complete culinary perspective.

His impact has been felt on the bartending side as well, with the likes of LA. Barman Matthew Biancaniello, who's locally known for foraging walnuts for a homemade nocino, praising Pascal as a mentor. "Pascal has truly taught me so much," says Biancaniello, who continues to ask questions as we traipse across a small babbling brook. "Once I realized that this was all out there, I began to see it everywhere."

Indeed, cocktail components were all around: Pink peppercorns and stinging nettle begged to be infused, while red and black currants were inspiring us to "cassis it up" and horehound offered a perfect platform for making bitter liqueurs or absinthe.
   
"Indeed, cocktail components were all around."  
Pascal points to a tree that looks familiar; in fact, anyone living in Southern California probably sees one of these trees every day without even giving it a second thought. It's an elderflower tree, and although its leaves and bark are poisonous, its flavorful, pollen-laden flowers can be used in everything from garnish to sparkling wine to the classic liqueur.

After hours of tasting, learning and asking, we parted ways with Pascal, who, like some mystical forest dweller, silently disappeared deeper into the woods to check some of his favorite spots. "You have to be nuts to do what I do," says Pascal with a smile- but we're fairly certain his is an insanity of the genius variety.

Our bags were stuffed to the brim as we headed back to civilization, where Biancaniello created cocktails made with foraged ingredients and Art in the Age spirits, which are distilled in Downtown Los Angeles. "These cocktails are about as local to L.A. as you can get!" laughed Rachel Mae Furman, National Brand Ambassador for Art in the Age.

In the following months, we've carried our foraging lessons with us. After a quick taste of Biancaniello's stinging nettle-infused Art in the Age Sage creation, bar consultant Brent Falco was pleased to finally understand just how delicious this ingredient can be in a cocktail. Rosie Ruiz, a bartender at Harlowe in West Hollywood, found herself stopping every two minutes on a hike, investigating the flora and fauna for plants she recognized. Christine Wiseman, a bartender at La Descarga, was so inspired that she has continued her foraging efforts, creating elderflower-infused cocktails complete with elderflower ice cubes for the William Grant May Mix-Off competition.

So, bartenders, there's a big, wide world out there: learn, forage and flourish.


Check out some recipes below:

 



    - 2 oz. wild mustard infused Art of Age Sage*
    - ¾ oz. lime juice
    - ¾ oz. California sagebrush infused honey**
    - 1 oz. passionfruit
    - wild mustard flowers garnish

Put everything into a shaker with ice and shake and strain into a rocks glass with ice and garnish with mustard flowers.

*10 wild mustard leaves to one bottle of Art of the Age Sage
**2 cups honey to 1 cup water and 4 strips of California sagebrush, heat up and stir until its dissolved and strain into bottle


 

    - 2 oz. Wild Bay infused Art of the Age Sage
    - 1 oz. wild elderflower cordial*
    - ¾ oz. lemon juice
    - 1 oz. wild elderflower infused white wine vinegar**
    - wild elderflower garnish

Put everything in a shaker with ice and shake and strain into a mason jar with ice. Garnish with elderflower on top.

*2lbs sugar, 6 cups boiling water, 4 medium lemons, 100 medium heads of elderflower (shake to remove any insects). Add in a pot and bring to a boil and let sit for 48 hours then strain.
**10 elderflower tops in one 16 oz. jar of white wine vinegar for two weeks

 

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