Karel and Forster kick up some Blood and Sand
Jon Karel (left) and Edward Forster (right)
Left: kc kratt; right: Wabi Sabi Foto
A few weeks ago, the News published details regarding Jon Karel’s return to Buffalo. Both an artist and a revivalist, Karel was the face most often recognized behind the bar at Vera during its first two years in business. He and his crew were responsible for steering our city’s burgeoning craft cocktail movement through the seedy territory formerly dominated by flavored vodka “martinis” and plastic cups of tepid rum and coke. And for that, we are forever grateful.
His departure in spring of last year was based on an offer to construct and manage the bar program at a promising new Rochester venture, The Revelry. Now approaching the anniversary of its first year in business, The Revelry has quickly become a popular establishment known far and wide for its raucous bar crowd and killer cocktails. Not content to rest on this singular achievement, Karel spoke early on of his desire to unite the Rochester bar scene, and that vision has come to fruition, as he and "The Rev", along with other talented bartenders and venues, have teamed up to showcase that city’s flare for top-notch libations through this weekend’s Rochester Cocktail Revival celebration.
As invested as Karel is (and will continue to be) in The Revelry and Rochester’s scene, the former drummer-turned-mixologist has always considered Buffalo his adopted home. So when news of his return hit the web, those who know Karel were not surprised to learn that he was here to create a project of his own.
Blood and Sand, a bar and restaurant, will open in the location formerly occupied by Laughlin’s (and before that, the Sanctuary) on the corner of Franklin and West Tupper. With partners Joshua and Jenna Miles (of The Revelry, among others), Karel plans to launch the business—named after the scotch cocktail inspired by the 1922 Rudolph Valentino film of the same name—in early summer.
In order to offer guests a well-rounded experience, Karel determined that Blood and Sand required a talented and dedicated chef. It took only a few weeks for he and his partners to ink a deal with Edward Forster, the owner of The Workshop pop-up series who gained acclaim and a perfect review from the Buffalo News as the opening chef at Mike A @Hotel Lafayette.
Forster, a CIA grad with an impressive pedigree, is a thoughtful chef who is exuberant and passionate about offering his guests food made from excellent ingredients, providing not just sustenance and good flavor, but also elements of intrigue and surprise. The pairing of Karel and Forster, two dedicated and talented professionals, will not only mean that Buffalonians will have another restaurant option to choose from, but also that the Blood and Sand partners are likely to discover additional food and drink frontiers to pioneer and master, to the delight of us all.
In a discussion with Forster earlier this week, the chef shared some of the ideas he has developed for the restaurant’s opening menu, and discussed Blood and Sand’s culinary point of view. Asked to describe the cuisine, he responds, “Modern, progressive, and approachable. We’re going to be playing around with using some spirits in our dishes, but I’m not marrying myself to anything, so I won’t say that all the dishes will always feature that. I don’t like to limit things.”
After honing his portion of the concept behind Blood and Sand, Forster is as determined as Karel to make the restaurant a place where people can be comfortable. “We want a guy in jeans to come in and feel good about having a tartine (open-faced sandwich) and a drink at the bar after work, or for a couple or group of friends in late night attire to feel at home having a full meal. ”
And of course, Forster’s devotion to quality ingredients means that locally raised meats and produce will be featured, “But that’s not our tagline, we’re not going to tout that, really,” he says. “Local is the right thing to do; we’re not using it as a marketing tool.”
A selection of items from the proposed opening menu is listed below. It’s a work in progress, so don’t take any of the entries as final. With Forster’s reliance upon seasonal ingredients and his creative and inspired culinary mind, it is likely this menu will change before Blood and Sand opens its doors.
Rabbit terrine, armagnac, braised apricot, pistachio, grainy mustard, goat cheese, rocket arugula
Quick house ricotta, shaved fennel, absinthe, red onion, charred honeydew, fennel fronds
Sliced raw scallop, buddha’s hand vodka jus, pickled celery, celery root, tender leaves
Oles’ carrots, spruce bitters, orange, harissa, cardamaro streusel, spruce tips,
Mezcal-cured salmon, house crème fraiche, nopales, puffed skin, cilantro
Brown ale braised pork shoulder, fermented cabbage, braised potato, burnt bread vinaigrette
Bone-in fluke, crispy caperberry, brown butter lemon purée, limoncello-glazed haricot jeune
Bourbon-washed cow's milk cheese, candied thyme, apricot bourbon jam
Chocolate mousse, blackberry dolcetto puree, cocoa pebbles
Christa Glennie Seychew is Spree's senior editor.