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For a long time, it didn’t seem to matter, but over the past few years, when I published or taught, people curiously began to assume I had some sort of certification and seemed surprised when I revealed I did not. As I finished my third drinks book, I started to feel a twinge of impostor syndrome. I was a sommelier of nothing. Perhaps I needed a few certifications to keep pace with the crowd.
The Sanctum really does feel a little sacred in the way they do things; its beautiful plant-based plates are colorful and fresh and alluring. And while there are loads of options for the vegan members of the populace, this place isn't that strict � you'll also find eggs and cheese on the menu in places. Grain bowls and salads, sammies and pasta populate a menu that holistic practitioners would likely tout. Delicious juices and smoothies tempt those looking for goodness by the glass. Breakfast/brunch is exceptional, whether you like your avocado toast animal-free or feel like topping it off with a couple of organic eggs.
The Adobo Chicken Sandwich unfortunately also missed the mark. Adobo chicken is usually marinated in vinegar, soy sauce, garlic and other seasonings. I would characterize this chicken sandwich as a plain old blackened chicken sandwich. The sandwich also had crackling, which is just fried fatty skin, which would have been great. However, the crackling wasn't seasoned and wasn't completely crispy, and so lacking the texture that they were aiming for. The accompanying fresh potato chips though were crispy and nicely salted.
Since I just spent a year writing a book about cider, the first credential I seek out is to become a Certified Cider Professional (or CCP), a brand-new professional title created by the United States Association of Cider Makers. I attended an introductory seminar on the CCP Level 1 exam at CiderCon in Baltimore in the winter of 2018. The following summer, one afternoon on a whim — without any further study — I decide to log in to the cider association website, pay $75 and take the exam. There are 60 questions on apple history, apple classifications and genetics, cidermaking techniques, styles of cider, detecting flaws, and food pairings with cider. I submit my answers, then find out instantaneously that I’ve gotten 89 percent correct — a passing grade. It has taken me 37 minutes 47 seconds to complete the exam, which includes the interruption of a 15-minute work call. I am now proudly a Level 1 Certified Cider Professional — a cider sommelier. I receive a felt CCP patch in the mail — one that I might have proudly ironed onto my acid-washed jean jacket back in the ’80s. Within months, I am teaching cider classes to candidates who also hope to pass the CCP Level 1 test.
After that, we move hotter. A yellow one from Scotch bonnet peppers that’s about a six, a delicious Barbados-style pepper sauce made with mustard and having a molasses-like taste, a barbecue-style sauce from San Antonio made with ancho and morita peppers, a spicy peanut butter made from a traditional Haitian recipe, and a floral, fruity habanero sauce from Japan made with Citra hops and a bit of mango. After a half-dozen sauces, my palate becomes pretty fatigued. “If you push yourself past your comfort level, your brain’s not going to care about the taste,” Chaimberg says.