Freelance Food & Drinks Writer

Tag Archives: David Wondrich

Conatser tops PoPFest Bartending Competition—again

In the weeks leading up to the Paris of the Plains Bartending Competition, much was made of the fact that Chris Conatser of Justus Drugstore placed every time he entered what was formerly known as the Greater Kansas City Bartending Competition. And last night he kept the streak alive, taking first place with his Manhattan (in)Verse.

PoPFest Bartending Competition winners lookin’ pretty happy. From left, Berto Santoro (3rd), Matt Seiter (Fan Favorite), Jenn Tosatto (2nd) and Chris Conatser (1st).
That bring’s Conatser’s tally to two first-place wins (2008 & 2012), one second (2010) and a third (2009). Not that he was the only one to reaffirm his track record.
Second-place winner Jenn Tosatto, bar manager of The Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange, is a five-time finalist who placed third in 2008. Berto Santoro, Extra Virgin’s bar manager, and Matt Seiter of Sanctuaria, St. Louis were both onstage last year. Santoro took third in 2012; Seiter was voted Fan Favorite.
Theirs weren’t the only familiar faces.  Kansas City’s Travis Stewart of Port Fonda, Paige Unger of Michael Smith Restaurant and Arturo Vera-Felicie of The Farmhouse were all returning competitors. Other finalists included Chris Burmeister, The Goose and Bramble & Hare, Boulder, Colo.; Carol Donovan, Hearty Restaurant, Chicago, Ill.; Phoebe Esmon, Kennett South 2nd, Philadelphia, Pa.; Giovanni Ferlaino, Ludivine, Oklahoma City, Okla.; and Liz Pearce, The Drawing Room, Chicago, Ill.
Did they put on a good show? Absolutely. Continue Reading

Paris of the Plains pops in Kansas City

In 2007, Ryan Maybee and Doug Frost started a little thing called the Greater Kansas City Bartending Competition. Well, little in comparison to what that event’s grown into—the Paris of the Plains Cocktail Festival. The week-long event’s already underway, and I wrote about it in today’s Kansas City Star (KC’s cocktail culture births Paris of… Continue Reading

Read, Shake, Sip Redux

For those of you who missed yesterday’s Kansas City Star, here’s a list of some worthy cocktails and spirits reads. For those of you who did see it, read on—there are a few extra bits that didn’t make it into the printed version. The King of Vodka—Linda Himelstein recounts Pyotr Smirnov’s rise from serfdom to… Continue Reading

Fat Tuesday Happiness

We just caught a glimpse of the local Fat Tuesday parade—trombones and tubas thumping out jazz, kids with masks and beads, a happy crowd strolling down the street in the rain. I didn’t join in, but watching their fun did make me thirsty for a Sazerac. I’ve been itching to make one ever since the… Continue Reading

Old Tom, New Favorite

I love gin. I love whiskey. Those statements combined can make it hard to order a cocktail. Now that Old Tom gin is back on the market, though, we can enjoy the best of both worlds. (For details on how this came to be, see my column in today’s Kansas City Star.) Two brands are… Continue Reading

Sipping Old Tom history

Tasting Ransom Old Tom gin is like sipping history. That’s because Old Tom gin had largely disappeared from the U.S. market by the 1940s, so there wasn’t much to go by when Oregon distiller and winemaker Tad Seestedt decided to make one. “I didn’t even know what Old Tom was,” Seestedt told me in October.… Continue Reading

Hunting the martinez

The martinez is an almost mythical cocktail, given that it was impossible to order one until recently. My first sighting came in 1995, while reading Barnaby Conrad III’s The Martini. The book includes this recipe from the 1887 edition of Jerry Thomas’s bartending guide: “Use small bar glass, one dash of bitters, two dashes of… Continue Reading

Punch it up

There were only two kinds of punch in my young adulthood. The sweet and fizzy kind served at church basement receptions or the trashcan mix of college parties. I have since learned that real punch is a more storied affair. It is, in the words of David Wondrich, nothing less than the foundation of the… Continue Reading

Ultimately Manhattan

Think you make a good Manhattan? The enter Woodford Reserve’s Craft the Ultimate Manhattan contest. The brand’s teamed up with Esquire Magazine to find the bartenders who make the best, but the contest is also open to wanna-bes like me. Rules and the entry form are online; the deadline is Nov. 30. So what makes… Continue Reading

Cocktail flashback

It’s funny what you find while digging through old computer files. In this case, it was a column I wrote for the Kansas City Star after the 2009 Greater Kansas City Bartending Competition that, thanks to some editing snafu, never ran. But there it sat, quietly waiting for me to start blogging. So here it… Continue Reading