In Pursuit Of: The perfect Manhattan
A perfect pair. Manhattans as presented by The Monte Carlo.
It is understood, especially around Hot Dish, that the culinary arts are just that -- an art. We are lucky to amble among some of the finest displays of food culture and then report back to you, our readers.
But reporting about any art is itself, well, an art. Especially when it comes to classics -- those items with which foodies have had more time to apply countless variations. And so we present to you our newest column: In Pursuit Of. We'll visit and revisit culinary classics at different Twin Cities eateries and bars in pursuit of just what makes them so great.
For example, in theater, take Shakespeare's Hamlet, a play that has been performed for generations. Even for those who don't particularly have a palate for theater, they are likely to agree -- yes, Hamlet is a classic favorite. The ingredients necessary for a theater troupe to prepare Hamlet are available and well known, and over the centuries many thousands have served it up -- both hot and cold.
There are the traditional approaches -- every word spoken as written, period costumes, no amplification -- and for many who have drank up such productions, they may swear it is the only way to have the play.
Then there is the more 'Hollywood take' on the classic tale - set in space, modern language translation, with a dance break. And some will swear they never really got Hamlet until that moment -- it's a new favorite.
Among the artfully prepared food or drink, there can be a similar dichotomy. This week Hot Dish pursued the perfect Manhattan; and we got two very different performances from two great bars less than half a mile apart: Monte Carlo and Marvel Bar.
A fine setting to drink a classic cocktail - the bar of Monte Carlo.
Like the Shakespearean production of Hamlet, the Monte Carlo serves up a Manhattan as one (and one's grandfather) would predict. Established in 1906, Monte Carlo creates a setting that solicits images of a Manhattan being downed by the likes of Sinatra and Martin.
"Whiskey or Brandy?" is the follow-up question by the crisp-white-apron-wearing leading man behind the bar.
The ingredients are then perfectly poured, and voila -- a highball filled to the brim with two cherries and a little straw -- just as the poster advertised. Tastes just like Pappy used to make; and as if the nostalgia had not yet satisfied -- how about a few casual tales of 'the good old days' from your perfectly cast, new best friend.
A great leading man live at Monte Carlo.
A new take on the classic cocktail at Marvel Bar.
A few short blocks away is the new take that stretches the boundaries of the Manhattan and offers up some surprises.
For those who have visited the Marvel Bar, they know well that the very act of walking in contains it's own mini-drama. A non-descript short walk to the door makes one feel rather like Alice going down the rabbit hole... to a speakeasy.
"A Manhattan, please," is requested of the blonde starlet at the bar.
"Perhaps the Reverse Manhattan?" she replies, as if anticipating that we've come here for something different.
"We reverse the portions," she says taking her cue perfectly from the curious expression, "the sweet vermouth and the bitters really balance the whiskey."
As she hand-hammered the ice cubes into the aerodynamic glass, it became increasingly clear -- Pappy hadn't had nothin' like this.
The flavors were rich and unexpected, a well-delivered twist indeed. So much so, it required a repeat to truly appreciate the nuance.
So then, the big question: Which one is better?
Here is when the real art-appreciator cringes and wants to go on and on about the hundreds of variables and how, given the situation, both satisfy. Perfectly.
But we're not the Luke-Warm Dish, are we?
So... drum roll, please: Marvel Bar takes home the Oscar. It's Manhattan too exquisite not to be celebrated.
What the Oscar-equivalent might look like. Tools of the trade at Marvel Bar.
However, the next time I want to hear the story about how, back in 1973, the railroad workers used to start drinking at 7 a.m., and then their wives would come in yelling and screaming to take them home... Well, that's the Monte Carlo every time.
Stay tuned for our next installment of In Pursuit Of...
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