There are a lot of new American gins worth exploring, and some wonderful things to mix them with (such as Crème Yvette, returned after many decades).
In fact, I think I'll go have a Blue Moon cocktail right now...
2 ounces gin
1/2 ounces freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 ounce Crème Yvette
Shake in iced cocktail shaker, and strain into a small cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.
"Starbucks is 39 years old now, and like a lot of 39-year-olds, especially those who’ve experienced great success in their salad years but are beginning to wonder if they’ve lost their touch, it’s having a bit of an identity crisis," writes Greg Beato in the March issue of Reason.
See, I'm a few months younger than Starbucks and I can't relate to that at all. I feel like my best years are yet to come.
But I think I understand the problem. Starbucks overextended. We had two Starbucks within a couple of miles of our house. Both closed last year -- one of them after just one year in operation.
I like Starbucks. I spend a lot of time at the store across the street from where my wife works. They know me there. I can work there more or less in peace. (Thank you, Bose Quiet Comfort 2's!) The coffee is too hot and too bitter and the food is overpriced, but it does the job. Although it may not be "a venue for conversation and civic discourse," I see plenty of realtors, pastors, paralegals, students and band moms gathering there regularly to converse about... well, whatever it is they discuss.
(I)f Starbucks really hopes to re-establish its authority as an innovative, forward-thinking trailblazer, it should perhaps use its next experimental venue to honor its heritage as the first chain to take gourmet coffee culture beyond the narrow boundaries of traditional coffeehouse values and aesthetics. Imagine a place with matching chairs, clean tables, beverages that look like ice cream sundaes, Norah Jones on the sound system, and absolutely no horrid paintings from local artists decorating the walls. A place, that is, exactly like Starbucks!
Because despite its ubiquity, despite its advancing years, Starbucks is still the most radical thing to hit the coffeehouse universe in the last 50 years.
Beats gas station coffee, anyway, I can tell you that.
Our friend Lisa Schmeiser, SFGate's "Dollars and Sense" blogger and occasional podcast guest, explores a subject that's weighed heavily on me since May 2008: How to stay soused on a budget. She was kind enough to ask me for a few tips and even linked to my Summer of Gin post on "decent gins."
Lisa praises BevMo, but I want to put in the good word for a chain that recently arrived in California called Total Wine and More. One opened a few months ago across the street from my local BevMo in Rancho Cucamonga. The store's prices are extremely competitive and often better than BevMo's. Also, their selection in certain cases is better. When the day arrives that I can afford to buy Vya vermouth again, I'm pleased that I can buy it at my local Total Wine instead of schlepping all the way to Glendale or Costa Mesa. BevMo doesn't carry it.
Troubling news from Fairbanks, Alaska, where tempers are flaring in the drive-thru lane.
The Associated Press reports a man who hit a Taco Bell manager in the face with a double-decker taco has been sentenced to one day in jail and one year probation.
This was no random taco assault. The assailant, Warren Strickland, claims Taco Bell miscreants spit in his food because they couldn't get his $1.49 taco right. The manager accused him of lying to get free food.
Strickland also has to pay a fine and -- constitutional lawyers, take note -- is banned from Taco Bell for a year.
Next time, Warren, just throw it on the ground.
Ben says we don't talk enough about booze around here anymore. Things ain't like they yoozta be. Well, I've got to agree, so I'm doing my part.
Behold: Tactical Nuclear Penguin
From the label: "This is an extremely strong beer; it should be enjoyed in small servings and with an air of aristocratic nonchalance."
This is an apple-booze-related post only tangentially, I realize, but I had to pass it along. Ian Knauer -- a "chef, country boy and former food editor at Gourmet" -- writes at Salon today about what may be the greatest culinary marriage since prosciutto hooked up with asparagus: Cider-bourbon braised bacon.
First step, find a thick chunk of slab bacon. You'll have to go to a butcher for this. When you do, ask them for the thickest chunk they've got. The amount is up to you. How much bacon do you eat? A lot? Then get a lot. Just make sure it's all in one piece...
Knauer goes on to show and tell how it's all done. And if the process of merging apples with bourbon and bacon sounds rather involved, well, consider the results: "The bacon can live in your fridge for a month, but it won't last that long, because it's just about the best thing you've eaten." How could it not be?
(Hat tip: Crywalt)
My favorite Thanksgiving story involves a drunken man, his son, a plate glass window, and the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department. This year, the Los Angeles Times recounts tales of Thanksgiving excess from local emergency rooms.
“If you thaw a turkey wrong or cook a turkey wrong ... it’s an opportunity for turkeys to get even with the human population.”
What are you thankful for? Because, really, it doesn't get much better than this...
Here's our posts from last year, and a year or two before. This stuff never gets old. The moral of this story? You can't trust the system. Also, don't deep fry your turkey, no matter how enticing it looks on Alton Brown. Do brine your turkey before roasting, however.
And give thanks you aren't any one of the turkeys in those videos. (No, I don't mean the birds.)
Update: Steve Hayward makes it look soooooo easy. No fireballs, explosion, shrieks of alarm or anything. Worst. Video. Ever.
Evidently, Rodriguez has been going wild with apples lately:
(W)e are talking about apples here – in all their splendor. We’ve turned apples into candy (or paste), we’re about to drink some, soon they’ll be in a fresh winter salad and I just ate a piece of raw apple cake with large bits of tart apples strewn about – I think you’ll like it.
Now let’s have that cocktail.
First things first – get yourself some apple brandy or Calvados...
Yes, by all means, please do. (And send me some while you're at it.) The Applejack Rabbit includes 2 oz. apple brandy, 1/2 oz. of lemon juice and a tablespoon maple syrup. Shake, strain and enjoy. And check out Rodriguez's photographs of the drink, too.
Editor's note: I shouldn't blog before I've had coffee. The Times story below is from January. This entire porcine palaver is based on a post today by Steve Hayward at No Left Turns. Steve, in addition to being a fine political scientist and historian, is a foodie extraordinaire. (Listen to Joel and me interview Hayward about his Age of Reagan.)
Behold... the Bacon Explosion! (Warning: Even the photo may cause chest pains.) The New York Times
profiles profiled the 5,000-calorie, fat-laden monstro... er, delicacy, and its inventors, in Sunday's paper in January (in case you missed it, as I did). Naturally, the Times reporter couldn't help but insert a cute political angle:
The Bacon Explosion posting has since been viewed about 390,000 times. It first found a following among barbecue fans, but quickly spread to sites run by outdoor enthusiasts, off-roaders and hunters. (Several proposed venison-sausage versions.) It also got mentions on the Web site of Air America, the liberal radio network, and National Review, the conservative magazine. Jonah Goldberg at NationalReview.com wrote, “There must be a reason one reader after another sends me this every couple hours.” Conservatives4palin.com linked, too.
So did regular people...
I love that last sentence.
Over at Benito's Wine Reviews, we find an interesting cocktail for All Hallow's Eve: The Boulevardier. "In France," Benito writes, "a boulevardier is a man-about-town, a gentleman who enjoys strolling along the street and visiting the most fashionable locales. It's also a classic cocktail that falls between the Negroni and Manhattan in composition and flavor."
Looks and sounds delicious. So what makes it a Halloween drink? The color. And the glass. (Click through and see for yourself.)
So... what are you drinking tonight?
Ben minus Joel is joined by a finite group of Infinite Monkeys -- David Burkhart, Robb Leatherwood and Jim Lakely -- to discuss the pros and cons of network neutrality and to preview the Autumn of Apple.
We had originally planned to talk about medical marijuana, which might or might not explain Ben's introduction. But the net neutrality discussion turned into a real knockdown, drag-out among Lakely -- who is co-director of the Heartland Institute's Center on the Digital Economy and managing editor of Infotech and Telecom News -- Leatherwood and Burkhart, both of whom have professional backgrounds in information technology.
If you have no idea why net neutrality is controversial or why you should care about the issue, you must listen to this episode.
After listening to the discussion, however, you may find yourself in need of a drink. Ben and David talk about applejack, calvados, pommeau and various apple-infused cocktails in a sequel to the Winter of Apple.
Music heard in this podcast:
• "Capitalism" - Oingo Boingo
• "The Internet is for Porn" - Lea DeLaria (from Avenue Q Swings)
• "I'm Free" - The Rolling Stones
• "Touch of Grey" - Grateful Dead
• "Applejack" - Dolly Parton
• "Applejack" - Dave Appell & The Applejacks
We're going to make another go at applejack and Calvados for the autumn and winter, starting with a sober discussion of applejack cocktails in the upcoming podcast. Applejack, perhaps more than bourbon or rye, is the quintessential American spirit. (Rum might make a run for the title, but that's a different season...) There is only one U.S. applejack distiller left, and that's Laird's in New Jersey.
To adequately prepare for the Autumn (and Winter) of Apple 2.0, I would make the following three recommendations:
HealthDay News reports on yet another study that contradicts an earlier study purporting to show the benefits of moderate drinking. The headline is typical of the genre: "Drinking Your Way to Health? Perhaps Not"
Yeah, yeah. What's the lowdown?
The benefits related to cardiovascular health have become well-known. A study released in mid-July, for instance, found that moderate alcohol consumption reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease in women by increasing the amount of "good" cholesterol in the bloodstream and reducing blood sugar levels.
But other studies have linked a daily drink, most often wine, to reduced risk of dementia, bone loss and physical disabilities related to old age. Wine also has been found to increase life expectancy and provide potential protection against some forms of cancer, including esophageal cancer and lymphoma.
But don't invest in that case of Pinot noir just yet.
Experts with the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association say that though these studies do show some benefits to moderate drinking, the health risks from alcohol consumption far outweigh the potential rewards.
Experts with the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association say that though these studies do show some benefits to moderate drinking, the health risks from alcohol consumption far outweigh the potential rewards.
Look, I'm no doctor, OK? But these incessant studies and warnings are simply impossible to follow. It's too stressful. Who needs the aggravation? Relax. Have a glass of wine or two, live your life, enjoy what you have. Invest in that case of Pinot noir. Send me a bottle or two.
It's been kind of funny to watch the coverage of Conde Nast's decision to shut down Gourmet magazine. Most coverage seems to try to find a larger meaning, without going to the obvious story that it's just part of the decline of print media.
ABC News led with something like "a beloved magazine is disappearing from kitchen tables." But that's wrong--Gourmet was never in the kitchen. Cook's Illustrated is in the kitchen. Saveur is on the coffee table (that's not to knock it--it's a beautiful magazine with great stories about authentic cuisine, though I expect the recipes are rarely made). Eating Well is maybe in the kitchen, or on the bedside table as you actually plan your menu for the week. I could try to say something like Gourmet was in the magazine rack in the bathroom, but that's meaner than I intend. Obviously, Gourmet was on the magazine rack at the newsstand, and that's why it is gone.
It had one of the best food editors, Ruth Reichl, and yet it didn't seem like her magazine. It lacked any real clear voice or point of view. Cook's, like its sister television show makes clear, is about the test kitchen. They make a dish a dozen different ways, tinker with it, and perfect it. Other magazines aim at healthy eating, or true foodie cooking (Saveur will explore how authentic bouillabaisse is made, and tell you where to get good saffron), or even down home cooking like Cook's Country. Gourmet, like Bon Appetit (the title Conde Nast kept) really lacked any clear direction (go check out the website for the magazines, Epicurious and you'll see).
Just as I argue that the future of newspapers lies in covering local and neighborhood stories very well (even as most papers are cutting back on local staffs and trying to hold on to their D.C. bureaus), I think the future of magazines is in having a clear point of view, while still covering a fairly broad range of topics.
Whole Foods founder John Mackey wrote a great op-ed this week published in The Wall Street Journal from a business-owner's perspective on the current health care debate. Mackey is a libertarian (not, as one might guess, some statist hippie) and he's serious about his views.
He sees, rightly, that America's health care payment system needs a radical overhaul — but not in the radical statist direction President Obama wishes to take it. Mackey makes great points in his op-ed, the crux of which is that the way Americans pay for health care is among the most inefficient imaginable. In short, the dollar held by the consumer is miles away from where it eventually ends up — and in between are miles of inefficiencies, mostly created by government meddling and mandates, that increase the costs for everyone. And Mackey backs up his philosophy by giving all of his employees health savings accounts, so at least the people who work for him make their health care decisions more rationally.
FEH! ... I say.
We have a Whole Foods near our house, and our family visits infrequently. It's a great place to treat yourself to a great cut of meat or some tasty exotic organic veggies. But if you're looking for standard fare (such as a jar of Nathan's mustard or for ... well ... a junk food fix) that's not the place to go. And while just about every trip to any grocery store is filled with annoyances — shoppers hogging the aisle, standing obliviously in your way, taking forever at the check-out counter, all-but-encouraging a child to act like a rabid and screeching monkey — the typical Whole Foods shopper I encounter is at least 10 times more insufferable.
Yet I now pledge to endure 10 times the aggravation (and the additional cost of groceries) more often now after hearing of this affront to an independent thinker.
Conservative arugula eaters UNITE!
I'd like to throw glommer-on Joe Biden into this mess, too. But he imbibed a waste-of-time non-alcoholic beer at the most boring picnic on the White House lawn since the Tyler administration. So Biden doesn't rate, even if Obama brought him along to be his wing man. (C'mon, Joe. If you're not into adult beverages, just order a Coke like a normal person).
Anyway, we've gone over this subject more than enough. For sure. Joel, the house liberal, was even kind enough to suggest our own beer summit. And I'm game. But before we crack open a few cold ones, I couldn't help but share what I consider a great "last word" on this whole troubling affair. Paul Mirengoff at Power Line, says it well:
As "race men" go, Gates has always been viewed as relatively sensible, as opposed to, say, Cornel West. Indeed, as E.J. Dionne reminds us in a worthwhile column, Gates once criticized "race politics" as a "court of the imagination wherein blacks seek to punish whites for their misdeeds and whites seek to punish blacks for theirs, and an infinite regress of score settling ensues."
Barack Obama, for his part, was going to be a post-racial president. As such he would lead us out of the "race politics" Gates (and the rest of us) finds so sterile and counterproductive.
Yet when the rubber met the road, Gates didn't hesitate to level baseless charges of racism in an extremely aggressive manner. And Obama didn't hesitate to attack the white police officer before he had the facts.
This suggests to me that, as far as African-Americans are concerned, "race politics" will continue unabated, as if Obama had never been elected president.
And that, long after anyone cares about who's version of events was most correct, is what matters — and why it ended up being so important. At least to me.
Competitive eating is serious business, certainly for the antacid industry. And on this Independence Day, all Americans can take pride in the fact that, Joey (Jaws) Chestnut was again crowned the champion in the Super Bowl of competitive eating events, the 94-year-old Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island. Yes. The mustard-yellow belt remains in America's hands!
"Jaws" also set a new world record, wolfing down 68 hot dogs (and their buns) in 10-minutes. Joey's arch rival, Takeru Kobayashi, was hoping to snatch back the crown from the United States. But the six-time hot dog eating champ from Japan fell short when he downed just 64 dogs.
Huzzah! And God Bless America.
No partisan point to make, really, about this dispatch from the Agence France-Presse. Although I'm morbidly curious whether past presidents employed a taster in their security entourages. I wonder if it's a Secret Service agent who draws the short straw or a full-time employee with a job description and everything? And what does the position pay?
The original recipe of the Harvey Wallbanger cocktail's essential ingredient is available again in U.S. liquor stores.
Galliano, the secret ingredient in the Harvey Wallbanger cocktail, has reintroduced its original formula to the U.S. market.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is in China today, attempting to outdo her despotic hosts in Beijing with her own matronly brand of authoritarianism. Pelosi argued that government tyranny is essential for saving the planet from the looming specter of climate change.
Obviously, Pelosi didn't use the exact phrase, "government tyranny is essential." That would be crazy! But greater government tyranny would be the necessary outcome if her policy prescriptions and those of her compatriots in Congress should come to pass.
Here's what Pelosi did say on Thursday to a complaisant audience of nodding bureaucrats, budding Communist Party courtiers and sundry lackeys of the regime at Tsinghua University: "I do see this opportunity for climate change to be ... a game-changer. It's a place where human rights — looking out for the needs of the poor in terms of climate change and healthy environment — are a human right." (Read that again: "It's a place where human rights... are a human right." Tautology, anyone?)
"We have so much room for improvement," Pelosi added to a student interlocutor who asked how she, The First Woman Speaker of the HouseTM, would prod Americans to cut back on their carbon emissions. "Every aspect of our lives must be subjected to an inventory ... of how we are taking responsibility."
By "we," of course, Pelosi means "you," and by "our lives" she means those of you plebeians who are not elected officials, government bureaucrats or favored members of the entertainment-political-industrial complex. Rest assured, you'll pay. It's funny how Republicans receive so much opprobrium for trucking in fear -- fear of jihadist terrorism, inordinate fear of communism, fear of expansive government overreach and so forth -- yet we're supposed to bask in the fear of environmental catastrophe peddled as fact by Pelosi and her ilk.
Pelosi obviously did not come up with this idea of subjecting "every aspect of our lives" to an "inventory" by herself. She had help. The mindset, encouraged by many academics and activists but certainly not shared by all, is illustrated brilliantly by an exchange in the latest issue of the Claremont Review of Books (I think the correspondence may be behind a subscriber's firewall. In which case: Subscribe!). David Shearman and Joseph Wayne Smith of the University of Adelaide wrote in response to a review-essay by Steve Hayward. Their book, The Climate Change Challenge and the Failure of Democracy, gets some rough treatment from Hayward. Shearman and Smith object to the idea that antiquated notions of liberty should hinder the vital work of Saving the Planet. They ask:
Is Hayward really implying by his critique that freedom is more important than life itself? Is this a modern day version of "better dead than red?" If so it is absurd. No life, no freedom. Why should freedom be the ultimate value? Because it produces lots of money? Why should money then be the ultimate value? How do you stop the regress?
This is a stupid objection and a deliberate misreading of the essay, to which Hayward responds:
Environmentalists usually argue against what they call "false choices" (i.e., that economic growth and environmental protection are incompatible), yet Shearman and Smith insist upon a categorical tradeoff between liberty and life itself, which false choice ironically reinforces my point. Fine: I'm willing to accept that but would, along with most Americans, insist on Patrick Henry's ringing reply.
I hope Hayward is right that most Americans remain reluctant to trade their rights for the possibility of reducing the globe's temperature by half-a-degree Fahrenheit (or Celsius... pick your poison) some decades hence. But regulation is slow, remorseless, difficult to see coming and even more difficult to resist. Seldom are power grabs as naked as the Waxman-Markey bill now winding through Congress, even though it's fair to say that few people have or ever will actually read the bill under discussion.
Often the proposals come in the garb of reasonable and incremental proposals and exhortations to do good. In Great Britain, for example, the chief executive of the Committee on Climate Change says that Britons will need to change their diets if they have any hope of cutting carbon emissions. According to the Times of London:
Government advisers are developing menus to combat climate change by cutting out “high carbon” food such as meat from sheep, whose burping poses a serious threat to the environment.
Out will go kebabs, greenhouse tomatoes and alcohol. Instead, diners will be encouraged to consume more potatoes and seasonal vegetables, as well as pork and chicken, which generate fewer carbon emissions.
Beer and whiskey harm the planet because "the growing and processing of crops such as hops and malt into beer and whisky helping to generate 1.5% of the nation’s greenhouse gases." Yet David Kennedy insists his committee is not attempting to force anyone to anything. "We are not saying that everyone should become vegetarian or give up drinking but moving towards less carbon intensive foods will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve health,” said Kennedy.
Kennedy's assurances should fool no one. It may be true that Kennedy and his band of despotic do-gooders do not wish to ban the production of certain foods and beverages -- today. They almost certainly want to tax beef, lamb, beer and whiskey to such an extent that only the rich, well-connected, and aforementioned favored members of the entertainment-political-industrial complex could afford them. Americans must know this is coming to the United States. As for me, they can have my bottle of Rittenhouse Rye when they pry it from my cold, dead hand.
You've got to hand it to the liberal greens, though: They love "life" so much that they're willing to wipe out most everyone's standard of living to make it last as long as possible.
The dead may be carbon neutral, but they can't pay taxes, either. And, really, what's more important than that?
Some busybody bureaucrat in Great Britain says that the production of whiskey and beer contributes to climate change.
Avoid cheap tequila in your margaritas and, whatever you do, don't use one of those awful, store-bought prefabricated margarita mixes! For the best margaritas, use a good quality blanco or reposado tequila, triple sec (preferably Cointreau, if you can afford it), and fresh limes. The ratio of tequila to triple sec to fresh lime juice should be 3:2:1. See Gary Regan for additional details and enjoy.
My friend Michael Anton, writer for mayors, governors and presidents, is not only an expert in the field of menswear and an honest-to-goodness dandy. He's also an excellent cook. I still have fond memories of a dinner he made for his wife, Millie and me about seven years ago at his mother's house overlooking the Pacific Ocean on the Central California coast. Best. Duck. Ever.
But Mike is nothing if not an overachiever. So serious is he about the art and science of cooking that he decided to go to culinary school. He enrolled last month in an intensive "amateur" course at the French Culinary Institute in New York City.
Naturally, he's blogging the experience. If you are a foodie, or if you just pretend to be, take an hour or so to read about Mike's adventures thus far with Chef X and Restaurant Guy, as well as his elusive quest for a perfectly tourned carrot.
Any good bartender knows that religion and politics are forbidden at the bar. That was the old rule, anyway. Times have changed. I mention this because Rachel Maddow's politics may be completely absurd, but her cocktail instincts are spot on.
Michael Potemra at National Review directed my attention to a Gawker post, which points to an excellent video of the popular MSNBC host on New York Magazine's site, in which she touts the virtues of the Jack Rose. Now, as I've taken pains to note, the Jack Rose is a fabulous drink. The name tells you almost everything you need to know. Jack... as in applejack. Rose, as in the color of the drink, courtesy of grenadine (the real pomegranate kind, not the artificial sugary stuff). Add some fresh lime, shake it up, and enjoy.
I have one quibble with Maddow's video demonstration, and that's her use of Calvados instead of applejack. Now, with some drinks, calvados and applejack really are interchangeable. But not always. A few weeks ago, Monkey David was making a drink that called for Calvados. He only had applejack on hand. The result was a tad unpleasant -- whereas Calvados would have mellowed the drink, applejack harshened it.
Calvados smooths out the Jack Rose's rough edges, to the detriment of the drink. According Ted "Dr. Cocktail" Haigh, writing in the first edition of his Forgotten Cocktails, applejack "asserts itself where Calvados lays back and remains mellow. Another way of putting it is that in any cocktail calling for Calvados you can substitute applejack. It may make the drink less subtle, but it will work. The reverse is not true. Try a Jack Rose with Calvados. It entirely lacks zing." I concur.
(I probably should have mentioned this to Monkey Brad before Friday night.)
So, Rachel Maddow knows her mixology, and she knows her classic cocktails, more or less, but she doesn't know much worth knowing about American politics. Hey, two out of three ain't bad.
Know how you can tell they spent time at Gitmo? They're well-fed and healthy — courtesy of the Red, White and Blue.
Looks like the guy on the left, Abu Sufyan al-Azdi al-Shahri, was no stranger to the all-you-can-eat falafel bar. Though he's a bit ungrateful after serving a "sentence" shorter than your average American does for voluntary manslaughter.
"By Allah, imprisonment only increased our persistence in our principles for which we went out, did jihad for, and were imprisoned for," al-Shihri was quoted as saying.
"Oh, and every Friday after prayers is 'Goat Luau Night!' at Gitmo," al-Shihri added. "It's worth not throwing your own feces at the guards so you don't miss out ... Allah be praised."