(Continued from Part 1)
Sure, for Vince the trouble started back in 1999. It wasn’t easy to pull off his feats of onion ring heroics every year. Never a once did he complain.
So when in the summer of 2006 I sent Vince an email asking if he’d be cool with us using his Arrogant Bastard Ale Onion Ring recipe in our soon-to-be-opened restaurant, I actually felt a bit guilty. I mean, here’s a guy who had selflessly been working his butt off prepping, cooking and serving onion rings at our event for years for the benefit of the fest-goers and the charities and never gotten a thing in return other than accolades and words of thanks (he did get a lot of those). And now I had the gall, the audacity to casually email him and say “Hey Vince, would you be willing to share the recipe?”
His response of course was a typical Vince-style “Wow, I’d be honored if you served Arrogant Bastard Onion Rings at your new place…I was hoping you’d ask!” What a prince of a man. A good friend through and through (and not just ‘cause of some onion ring recipe).
Turns out though, there were some complications.
See, we’d already set on the plan to use natural ingredients. Absolutely minimal-to-no processed stuff. This counted out anything with high fructose corn syrup (most sodas, condiments and a shocking array of other “food”stuffs), and quite a variety of other things. Our goal was to use real food as a starting point in our kitchen. Not processed foods.
Certainly, that took pre-fab onion rings off our list. True, I sometimes wonder at the sheer phat bank we’d rake if we used the incredibly profitable likes of stuff like this or this (“Selling Points: A healthy and delicious way to enjoy quality onion rings…”). This one is the best yet with a nicely done, but oddly disturbing video that you must check out (love those Matrix-style cascading dollar signs in the background of one shot!).
You get the point. Hell, you probably recognize those industrialized rings from countless different restaurants you’ve visited.
But we knew we’d have none of that. Instead of high profit prefab rings, we were going to buy expensive organic onions, spend the labor to hand peel, slice, dip by hand into batter that we make several times a week by hand, and monitor the deep fry baskets (no auto timing here…we do that by hand too).
So back to Vince and those “complications” I mentioned above. It turned out Vince was using Krusteaz to make the batter. I don’t know why I’d always assumed that he’d been making his own batter, but he wasn’t. Hell, for that one-day-a-year gig, and with all the incredible amounts of work he put into it, I don’t blame the decision one iota. Not a bit. But when we looked at the ingredient list on the Krusteaz package, we realized it just wasn’t going to fit into the parameters that we set for the Stone restaurant. So we had to make our own. Naturally (well, ‘naturally’ as you can possibly get for a batter for deep frying, well, anything). So we did.
Fast forward to now. Arrogant Bastard Ale Onion Rings are one of the most popular items on our menu. Folks wax poetically about ‘em, make special trips for them, and can’t ever ever ever stop complaining about them.
TO BE CONTINUED….Part 3