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Friday, October 18, 2013

Making Friends & Rockin' Out at VASCO

I asked for "The Gypsy" when I walked in the door at Vasco.  It was on the Saturday of Mardi Gras weekend,  in Sydney.  The streets were already getting filled with people and the partying had begun. "The Gypsy" a.k.a. Luke Ashton, knew Dr. Phil from The Roosevelt had sent me.  I was greeted as if I was an old pal. I knew this was my kinda joint. Then I met Max Greco, the owner of this incredible rock n roll inspired bar/restaurant. These boys instantly took a shine to me and had me sample as much of their playlist (menu) as I could.
Max stems from Eau-de-Vie, where he was their head bartender and one of the reasons it got slated as one of the "World's Best Bars."  He opened Vasco toward the end of last year. You can tell, from his endearing smile, that he is having the time of his life.  I looked around the bar, as I sipped on "Eagle Rock," the 1st cocktail Luke had me try on the Vasco Playlist.  It was a great opening track with lairds applejack, punt e mes, dom Benedictine, fernet branca, angostura bitters.
I loved all the music paraphernalia that hung on nearly, every element of the bar.  Max had drumsticks above his head and started wailing on cymbals, that hung along the top of the bar.  He asked me, which band was his favorite, based on his bar design.  After a few guesses, he pointed to his Foo wall. There, hung Dave Grohl's legendary Gibson. Apparently, Max's mates had all chipped in and bought him this rare gift.  It was then, that I mentioned my friend, Bob Mould, who had written a track with the Foo Fighter's on their latest record. Max told me to open the playlist and look at the third song (cocktail) down.  Their was the "dear rosemary" listed as one of his specialty's. I explained, that Bob was en route to Sydney, at that very moment. He had tour dates to play throughout the country.  Max didn't believe me, when I said, I would bring him by.  Little did he know.
By this point, I was munching on some arancini and sipping on Max's Rye cocktail, called the "Judas Kiss." I knew my bar friends at home would appreciate his recipe. The Kiss called for cynar, branca menta and honey water. Max decided to break out a very special coaster, when he veered off the menu, to make me a finale, before sending me back to the Mardi Gras madness. This cocktail concoction had Valdespino Pedro Ximenez Sherry, some Calle 23 Tequila Reposado, a little Yellow Chartreuse, Fernet Branca and Herbsaint.  It really showed off his skill set and made me eager to return.
A few days later, I asked my date to meet me for a drink before dinner at Porteno. Vasco happens to be across the street a little ways down. I arrived first, and began with a Tequila Highball to get things started. Also, I got to catch up with my mate, Max. I had bumped into him, only the night before, at Eau De Vie, his old stomping grounds.
He was on a date when we bumped into each other. So, I found it only fitting, to bring my date to Vasco. Max decided to move me into a classic daiquiri, (Havana Club, house made vanilla syrup and lime juice) for my 2nd round. And then, when my plus-one arrived, I decided to get the "Man on Fire." At that point, I was pretty fired up, so the ingredients only fueled it more.  The drink had both mezcal, scotch and tequila.  There was also lemon, agave, some of that honey water and both chicken salt and smoked salt along the rim of the glass. Woo-Wee!
I returned the next afternoon, with a very special guest. Max about dropped to the floor, when Bob Mould entered the building. They both were impressed with one another.  Bob was gazing about and shooting pics to text back to his buddy Dave Grohl. Max was simply beside himself. Thank goodness my drink orders were a distraction for him. I went back to the playlist for my 1st selection. A "daiquiri no.6" (havana 3,  house made coconut falernum,  fernet branca,  lime) seemed to be the refreshing opening act.
I found it fitting, that I was listening to and drinking a "dear rosemary,"  for my next cocktail. I wanted to hold out for this drink, until I brought Bob along with me. Max uses strawberry beefeater, rosemary, mandarin syrup, fresh apple and fresh lemon in his composition.
Bob and I got to sample some gifts from the kitchen as well. We had bites of lasagna, some arancinis, a little frittata and some pickled eggplant. Max decided to use David Wondrich's recipe and make me an "el presidente." It called for Cointreau, noilly prat dry vermouth, house made grenadine and havana 3. It was very different. from the classic I drink, at Bar Agricole. But, equally as delicious. I had to remember the moment and the three of us posed for a pic.  It was one of this year's greatest moments.
I did a whirlwind tour, on my final, full day in Sydney. I came up to Vasco to bid farewell to my mates Luke and Max before heading off to a footy match at the Allianz Stadium. I had already consumed quite a few cocktails, so I decided to have something from Vasco's kitchen to help coat some of the alcohol. I finally got to try Max's mother's sausage recipe and ordered "lucy's" italian-style hotdog & chips. Once again, it proved to me, that this was one of the most impressive bars and restaurants in Sydney.  From every aspect of my experiences there, I walked away with such joy.  Man, I miss those boys.


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