On the Line: Aaron Anderson (and Hoover) of Harlow's Fine Cuisine & Crafted Cocktails, Part Two
I continue with this week's OTL by featuring not one, but two members of Team Harlow. Aaron gets a little personal, while Hoover (who prefers to go by just that, even though I know his proper name) brings our interview back home with a few words about the delectable bar scene. Take it away, gentlemen!
Read our interview with Aaron Anderson of Harlow's, part one.
And now, on to part two . . .
When you're not at work, what are you doing?
AARON ANDERSON: I have a wife and two daughters, so I spend a lot of time at the house. I'm learning to sail, so that's a long process. I try to live as leisurely as I can when I'm not involved with the chaos that is the restaurant.
Where did you grow up? If you're not from Orange County, what brought you here?
I grew up in the south side of Indianapolis, in a suburb called Greenwood. I was born in Lyndon, population of, like, 1,100 the last time I checked. Small town, a lot of pros and cons to that.
We always had a garden. We always pickled. We always canned. We had nine horses and a pond. I was very, very aware of my natural surroundings.
What's your favorite childhood memory?
I have a few. We used to go mushroom foraging when I was a kid. Four-wheel-drive truck, going to hunt for morel mushrooms. And flying kites.
What were you up to five years ago?
I was at Cafe Was in Los Angeles. Then McCormick & Schmick's in Irvine, which gave me a good base for financial management. Then I was offered a chef de cuisine position at the Luxe Hotel, a high-end, boutique hotel by Staples Center.
Last song playing on your radio:
At the whim of the girls, it was a pop song. When I'm by myself, I listen to NPR. It's the only time I have to get any worldly information as to what's going on locally or globally, so my drive to and from work is always NPR.
Hardest lesson you've learned:
I'll tell you that anyone who is successful in the world has mastered the art of management. Managing people is the most difficult thing in the world. And if you can get people to do things they don't necessarily want to do, you've become a great manager. The sky's the limit for that. Every chef would rather just be a cook and create beautiful things.
Last thing you looked up online: [Editor's Note: He actually pulled out his smartphone for this one.]
Natural sausage casing. We were watching something on one of the food channels last night, and my wife was appalled at the idea of them using intestine casings. I tried to explain to her that basically any sausage you eat is that. So I had to prove it via Google.
What would you be doing if you weren't in this business?
I have had a couple of other forays before I got very serious with cooking. I originally started school for an English degree. Then I was going to be a dietician for a while. And then I considered massage therapy. I ran a landscaping company for a short period of time after high school.
Last book read or movie watched; how was it?
I'm a big Hemingway fan, so I have probably everything. I'm always reading short stories. The last book I read was most likely a culinary cookbook--probably Suzanne Goin's book, Sunday Suppers at Lucques. She's been a huge inspiration.
Is there anything we did not discuss that you'd like readers to know?
Everything that is done here at Harlow's has been a collaboration. We bounce ideas back and forth with one another. I definitely want to give credit to my staff. I've got an amazing chef who works with me [Ken Perry]. We've worked together for numerous years. Once you find people not only with whom you can work well, but also who have the same visions and aspirations as you, you guys have got to cling to one another. I've been pretty fortunate to find a pretty good group of guys.
What is your beverage of choice?
HOOVER: Well, this question gets posed to me quite often. It's not an easy one to answer. Being a merchant of high-class swill, I'm constantly tasting different spirits and ingredients, using them to mix up a tasty libation. The drink should reflect or balance the day.
If the game is on, a nice, cold beer. Bartender's breakfast--I think most people call it "lunch?"--a Bloody Mary. Before dinner, a Tom Collins. After dinner, a Manhattan. The beverage of choice is just that, in which you have a choice to choose what you are in the mood for. Or a rye on the rocks will do--and make it a double.
Advice for aspiring bartenders:
My advice for any aspiring bartender is this--and it's my own personal credo: We are to be purveyors of the culinary cocktail by hand-crafting each drink using classic techniques, with superior spirits and fresh, seasonal ingredients. Driven to create a libation of love for each guest. Also, don't get jaded when someone stiffs you on the tip.
What's being barrel-
agedflavored these days?
Everything! We do a Rob Roy, and soon a Negroni. And to be accurate, it's barrel flavoring. Before serving, depending on the size of the barrel, it's a three-week run on a cocktail in a barrel before serving it up. To "age" a drink would take years. But I think barrel-aged cocktails sounds great! And taste even better.
What mixology trends do you see for 2014?
Craft cocktails are becoming more culinary cocktails. Bartenders worth their salt are putting in the hours before service: prepping, cooking using what's seasonal to make awesome tasting syrups, shrubs, infusions and house-made bitters. We are taking the model of a kitchen program.
This year was the first time the James Beard Foundation, known in the food world, acknowledged and nominated bars and its bar program to be noteworthy. To name one, Chicago's Aviary. Who knows? Maybe in the future we will have Michelin-rated bars.
Where do you like to get a drink, besides at Harlow's?
Broadway By Amar Santana in Laguna Beach, 320 Main in Seal Beach, Pie Society in Costa Mesa, and Mugs Away Saloon for a $5 PBR and shot of whiskey.