By December 12, 2014 Read More →

BarView – Why Give?

Why Give When You Can Receive?
Redwood Café

By Kate Serpa
Photos by Philip Johnson

On the subject of holiday gift giving, Phil and I were presented with a rather thought provoking question recently: What, in your humble opinion, is the American contribution/gift to the culinary world? You figure Italy has wine, France has cheese (these are stereotypical examples, I know)– but what are we bringing to the big table? Hamburgers are, in essence, a hot sandwich and French fries and anything potato-related is, to me, strictly Irish territory; so what is our gift?

Nick Richars, of Redwood Café , believes with convincing force that, surprisingly, it’s the cocktail. “We popularized the cocktail — pre-Prohibition, everything was done straight or with a little water. We perfected the cocktail equation of sugar, water, bitters, and spirits.” You hear that, Modesto? Our gift to the world are superbly crafted cocktails — and it’s our duty to enjoy them!

Richars, a longtime Modesto staple in the wine and spirits circuit, is the beverage director at the Redwood Café , overseeing 150 selections of wine and a bar full of top-notch nectar. Redwood Café is, for lack of a better word, beautiful. The bar area features colorful lights playing over a wood-topped and amply and uniquely stocked bar, high top lounge tables have a window gazing view of enclosed outdoor patio seating by foliage and a water fountain to boot — venturing to the west side of the restaurant, through the main dining, presents cafe tables under flower laden trees. The difficult part here, you see, is trying to focus on the bar proper.

Redwood Café offers, states Richars, a number of different venues within the restaurant — expanding from extravagant weddings to intimate dinners, thereby accommodating just about any request. The amount Redwood Café offers is staggering, so I’m sticking strictly to the bar area because that’s where the booze is.
And the booze is beautiful as well. One drawing aspect of the Redwood Café bar, Richars believes, is a blend of creating notably exceptional craft cocktails through specialty spirits from small producers and a detailed approach to the creation and history of mixology. “Bartending is a trade craft,” states Richars. “Techniques are passed down and taught.”

Exemplary technique is evident in every cocktail Richars pours out, combining equal parts alcohol and history — a Charles Goodnight Bourbon Old Fashioned, enhanced by an orange peel and one of those fun extra large blocks of ice; the Redwood Gin and Tonic with Fever Tree tonic water, grapefruit, rosemary, thyme, and juniper berries; a Corpse Reviver No. 2 with gin, fresh lemon juice, Cocchi Americano, and an absinthe rinse; and a stirred gin martini that would throw its shaken counterpart straight on its’ watery back. Needless to say Redwood is not the place to drink and dash — questions and discussions about libations are encouraged, and Richars seems to know more about spirits than do about members of my immediate family.
Though Redwood Café has been open as a catering venue for 20 years, the revamped bar and patio area are pretty spanking new. Notable times to experience the bar are Redwood’s Wine Down Wednesdays, a weekly wine tasting featuring six selections, their Tuesday – Saturday Happy Hour, and especially their recently implemented weekend late night, featuring pizza, desserts, and delicious boozes that goes as late as you’re willing stay.

And so, Modesto, Phil’s and my holiday gift to you is an open invitation to experience cocktail excellence at Redwood Café with Nick Richars. And feel free to order the fun expensive stuff, too; Phil said he would foot the bill.
4342 Dale Road, Modesto, CA
(209) 545-9248

Posted in: featured, food & drink

About the Author:

Kate Serpa does not live in Modesto, CA, nor does she attend court-reporting school. She has not played for the piano for a number of years and she is definitely not excited about helping out at the McHenry Museum. She detests drinking, bar hopping, and late night adventures, and thinks girls who dye their hair red are disgraceful. She has absolutely zero sense of humor and is boring as hell.