Those Damn Arrogant Bastard Ale Onion Rings (Part 2)

(Continued from Part 1)

Greg Koch
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.

They look harmless, don't they? Looks can be deceiving...

They look harmless, don't they? Looks can be deceiving...

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).

Did somone say Triple Bypass?

The aftermath of the Krusteaz batter. Did someone say Triple Bypass?

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

-Greg

Those Damn Arrogant Bastard Ale Onion Rings (Part 1)

Greg Koch

Click for our Flickr set

Truth be told, they’ve been a pain in the ass since day one.

And that “day one” dates all the way back to 1999.  First, it was a joyous pain….

It was the Stone 3rd Anniversary Open House.  Our good friend Vince Marsaglia, stoked about the fact that we’d started to raise some nice money for charity at the Anniversary celebrations, and being the kind of guy who loves to pitch in and loves to cook, offered up his serious skills.  And what did he settle on?  Onion Rings!  The Arrogant Bastard Ale Onion Rings were born.

We didn’t charge anything for them.  We’d gone from asking for a voluntary donation for charity at the 1st Anniversary, to $5 at the 2nd Anniversary.  I’m really struggling to recall here, but I think we raised it again at the 3rd Anniversary to somewhere in the $7 range.  We’ve got a record of that detail in a filebox somewhere, but I don’t want to go dig through all that stuff right now.  The bottom line is that we were a little concerned about the increase in price, and the idea of offering attendees a free perk to get a little food in their stomachs seemed like a great idea.

They were an instant hit.  The line was long and nonstop all through the fest. Vince and his helpers worked like crazy all day, ran out, and ended up covered head to toe in batter.  Vince was grinning the whole time.

Before reading this, you might have understandably guessed that the Arrogant Bastard Ale Onion Rings were a Stone invention.  They were not.  Credit goes entirely to Vince.

The next year Vince made even more onion rings.  They were so popular that the line was again 30-50 people deep the entire day, they again worked like crazy, eventually ran out again, and Vince and team were covered in even more batter at the end of the day.

Vince has not missed leading the Arrogant Bastard Ale Onion Ring team during the Stone Anniversary Celebrations since.  That counts up to NINE years he’s been doing it.  Each year he’s prepped and brought more onions, we’ve made his tent area bigger, and we’ve added additional fryer capacity.  And each year the legend of them, and the line, has continued to grow.

So a couple of years ago as we were leading up to opening the Stone World Bistro & Gardens, we knew that the sought after Arrogant Bastard Ale Onion Rings were a ‘must’ on the menu.

That’s when the real trouble started.

TO BE CONTINUED….Part 2

-GK