Monday, August 18, 2008

jimgermanbar

The most important thing I have to say is: it’s a good thing jimgermanbar is located in Waitsburg and I actually have to plan the 18 mile road trip ahead of time or I could oh-so-easy become a barfly (And yes, you read it right: it’s jimgermanbar. I didn’t forget to add spaces or caps as per spell checker).

bar·fly / ˈ'bärˌ?flīi/ • n. (pl. -flies) inf. a person who spends much time drinking in bars.

For awhile, I was thinking I first met owners Claire Johnston and Jim German last year when I was assigned to write an article about jimgermanbar for the Northwest Palate magazine's "Recent Openings" column, but later I remembered meeting them one Sunday afternoon when I was working at a local winery. Claire and Jim came in to sample the wines and introduced themselves to me. They were located in Walla Walla at the time and Jim was bartending for Whitehouse Crawford. I remembered how this personable couple made my day.

There are several things that keep drawing me back to jimgermanbar. The first and most important thing is Jim and Claire. Every time I enter their bar, I am met by both with a warm greeting as if entering their living room with an invitation for a special evening. The atmosphere is far from pretentious with an artsy, yet simple Mediterranean taverna-feel in the century-old building that was once the former Waitsburg Odd Fellows Hall. What also adds to the ambiance is the customers - a varied blend of Waitsburg locals, tourists and even local winemakers.

The other things that keep drawing me to jimbermanbar is that everything is fresh, from the house smoked meats to the tinctures and herbs used in the drinks. Jim is a purist and you won’t find blended floofy-frothy-frizzy-disco-‘tini drinks behind his bar. What you will find are traditional cocktails prepared using recipes from decades ago, such as real martinis made with gin or vodka and accessorized with house-brined olives or an artful twist. One of my favorite cocktails produced behind Jim’s bar is the French 75, named after a piece of WWI artillery. Last month, I discovered that sitting at the bar is the best view of the house. I was able to watch Jim perform his cocktail art, learn about various liquors and watch him methodically "muddle the mint" for fresh Cuban-style mojitos using fresh mint from Claire’s herb garden. From that bar stool, I also watched Jim light the candles at dusk, which illuminate the back bar wall, as if it was a ceremony greeting the dark.

As you enter the bar, attached to the left wall are two large rolls of butcher paper that lists the daily menu of seasonal "Etruscan Snacks." I think between myself and my dining companions there isn’t anything on that menu that we haven’t ordered. One of our favorites is the various toppings for the crostinis, such as the rich sofrito or Claire’s fresh picked lovage and sweet onion pesto to the house smoked pork tenderloin and baked organic polenta topped with marinara and basil pesto. And you can’t leave without finishing the evening with a "Super Happy Clairecake" - a moist and tasty cupcake frosted with one of Claire’s artful designs.

Now there is one thing that might make a Walla Walla wine connoisseur gasp - - there is not one bottle of Walla Walla wine or any domestic wine in the house. GASP! The wine list is a thoughtful selection of European wines from sparklers to ports. In fact last Friday, we sampled a new assortment of Georgian wines from Russia. Even as one of the biggest fans of Walla Walla wines, I love the jimgermanbar wine selection as Jim brings wines to the area that I might not try on my own - - and if you are going to be a true wine connoisseur, one should broaden their wine miles. And speaking of miles, the 18 miles to jimgermanbar are miles worth traveling for.

1 comment:

Steve said...

catie--my favorite part of the jimgermanbar is that they DON'T have any WW wines! Their selection is thoughtful and mind-broadening and I hope they resist any pressure to add any to the list.