OPENING PHOTO: Chef J of BlackSteel, uses Dry Soda to complement his striking cuisine
INSERT OPENING: Designer drink and utensils: Forged black steel knives contrast with ethereally lovely Lemongrass Dry Soda
At a recent Wine Warehouse tasting at the Century Plaza, I happed upon a thirst quenching sparkling refresher that was neither wine nor spirit.
Within the very first sip of Dry Soda – Lemongrass flavor to be exact – I knew I had to get the message out. A smart idea was among us.
Pegged as the first culinary soda, Dry Soda’s four well-planned flavors are delights to the senses: visually simply stated labels, perfumed aromatics and a satisfying taste.
The non-alcoholic option was an inspiration of founder and CEO Sharelle Klaus, whose quest for superb cuisine would always be challenged by drink pairings; she had problems finding something interesting to quaff with meals when she was pregnant with her four children.
Tired of compromising with water and soda pop, but desiring the satisfaction of food and drink alliances, she created Dry Soda.
Four flavors mark the beginning of this bubbly delight: Kumquat, Lavender, Lemongrass and Rhubarb, each specifically designed for an innate harmony with certain dishes.
PHOTO A: Kumquat Soda offers a sweet and tart unison of flavors. Its bright acidity and fruity nature lends itself to dishes such as Chef J’s succulent Diver scallops.
If Chef J isn’t already at “legend” rank, he certainly is at celebrity status. The Brooklyn born and raised chef, designer and inventor created BlackSteel, a Hollywood Boulevard establishment that pays homage to European style with creative French-Japanese cuisine.
His full name – Jason Harley – has been shortened, but he’s long on concept.
A graduate of New York’s CIA, Harley trained with a French master chef at New York’s Petrossian Paris. He came out to California in 1999 when the Chairman of Warner Bros. hired him as his personal chef.
From his custom made titanium and bronze stoves, his forged black steel pans and knives to his silver jewelry, Chef J has become an icon and is known as “Celebrity Chef to the Stars.” His development of the first Vodka Aquarium features a patented cooling system that also oxygenates the spirit, his own proprietary potato-based Polish vodka.
Photo B: BlackSteel Mixologist Lindsey Girardot at the bar – note the Vodka Aquarium in the background.
The Four-Course Meal
Chef J served up a four-course meal, uniting each expression of Dry Soda with his health-oriented French-Japanese cuisine. “Dry Soda is special; with half the sugar of soda, it allows you to actually experience the essence of the drink’s flavor character,” he told Patterson’s.
Jumbo lump crab cakes in a jalapeno ponzu aioli and roasted sansho pepper carrot slaw responded elegantly to Lemongrass Soda, with its perfumed exotic floral notes. Its nature was reminiscent of a Spanish verdejo or possibly a distant memory of a sassy Sauvignon Blanc.
Course two married Kumquat Soda with skillet roasted Diver scallops in a zesty zucchini sauce, the sweetness of the beverage rounding out the spice and seemingly setting the scene for the scallops to melt in your mouth.
Marinated grilled Australian lamb chops were wooed by Rhubarb Soda, and made for a heavenly match. The boldest of the Dry Sodas, it stood up to the meat and melded well with the rosemary port ginger sauce.
PHOTO C: Rhubarb Dry Soda stands up to grilled meats
Take a whiff of Dry’s Lavender Soda and you’re in a rural field in the South of France. Its sweet quality and lower acidity makes it a fine friend to desserts, and Chef J’s housemade sorbets of black raspberry, lychee and passionfruit was a grand finale to an effervescent experience.
PHOTO D: Dry Soda should be enjoyed like a sparkling wine: in a flute glass!