Wednesday, July 31, 2013

One more thing I'm liking

Trombone Shorty.  If you like rock, jazz, hip hop, or funk, especially when all mixed in a blender, this is for you.  This guy is super talented and entertaining, I've seen him twice in concert.  He does this circle breathing thing where he'll play one note on his trumpet for minutes and minutes (you can find videos online easily).  As my brother the musician wondered, "How does he write catchy hook after catchy hook?"  His album Backatown is my favorite of the three I have, but they are all tons of fun.  You can't be in a bad mood while listening to this music.  His band is great, too.

Things I'm liking right now

Disclaimer: I am lazy and not bothering to italicize titles in this post.

FX network
Justified, The Americans, The Bridge (new this summer), It's Always Sunny (which is moving to FXX).  Pretty solid lineup.  I feel their dramas rival AMC's Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, The Killing, etc.  The difference is, sometimes the AMC shows lack in fun factor.  Justified and The Americans never forget that television, while now a proven delivery system for art, is still fundamentally about entertainment. 

Reasonably priced bourbon
I just finished a bottle of Breckenridge bourbon from Colorado, good stuff, I really feel the snowmelt proofing water was noticeable.  But didn't blow my socks off, and I know I paid $40 something for the bottle.  I start to compare everything back to Buffalo Trace's namesake entry, which I can get for sub $25 in PA, $43 for a handle.  It has as much flavor as just about any bourbon save for the super rare, super pricey stuff.  Other bourbons in this category would be Four Roses yellow label and Old Grand Dad.  I also recently had some Elmer T Lee single barrel ($30).  Mr. Lee passed away last week, get some now while the bottles are still of his choosing. 

Simple, common, beer
I'm on the same trajectory with beer.  I love trying new beers, hunting down special releases, and going to beer week events to get a glass of Bells Hopslam or Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout.  I even had a few sips of Westvleteren this year, supposedly the best beer in the world.  Never had Pliny the Younger or Elder.  It's fun, but chasing down one offs can get old; and rarity tends to overrate things.  And while there is no end in sight to the craft beer boom, that doesn't mean they are all good.  Half the time, when you try a new beer, you wish you would have just gotten the one you know you liked.  I love beers that started me on the craft beer journey, like Chimay Red.  And it doesn't get any better than Victory Summer Love with some grilled dinner on a warm summer evening.  Summer Love is not sexy, the opposite of a "special" beer, that's what makes it so great.

Bike riding around Philly
My wife has been biking around the city for a few years, as she goes to school at Temple and works part time in Old City.  I commute to Jersey so need a car for that.  But I just got a bike from Craigslist, and have been really enjoying it.  It's a great workout--my wife is kicking my ass at this point--and the best way to get around town.  Provides more range than the subway, plus it's free.  And no parking issues.  Last night we biked to West Philly for a free Shakespeare performance in Clark Park.  Even brought a picnic.  Drivers: share the road!

I follow recipes from two books, Weber's New Real Grilling and Steven Raichlen's How to Grill.  Raichlen is awesome, it's a great first grill book bc/ he really gets into technique, tools, and provides a ton of recipes, from a quick grilled steak to a 6 hour BBQ pulled pork.  All his recipes are simple to follow.  His PBS show is good, too.  The Weber book is good, too, not too many ingredients in the recipes but tons of flavor and value.  Things I've grilled recently--pork and chorizo burgers, rum glazed shrimp on sugarcane skewers, honey glazed chicken thighs, Mexican style corn, flank steak with creamy poblanos, and plenty of veggies (green onions, asparagus, peppers).  Even dessert: coconut milk dipped grilled pineapples with cinnamon sugar.  Nothing like cooking over an open flame.  I prefer charcoal.  I grill all year round, but multiple times a week in the summer.

Mason Jar cocktails
I have gone to two events recently where open containers may be frowned upon: Phillies fireworks and The Tempest in a public park.  Simple solution-pre mix a cocktail in the jar, preferably one that looks like lemonade or limeade, e.g. mojito, daquiri, porch swing.  Bring some seltzer, club soda, or 7 up to top off and you are good to go.  Nothing like drinking under the stars, or fireworks.   This trend of ours started when a friend said, somewhat jokingly, "meet us at the fireworks and bring drinks!"  I took it as a challenge and produced.  I'm not saying I invented this technique, as I saw others doing it, too.  But many of them were lazy and filled mason jars with wine.  That works too, I suppose, for the oenophiles out there.  But the fun is in making it look like you aren't drinking.

Marathon training
My wife and I signed up for the Philly marathon this November.  The full 26.2.  So far so good, but this is week 2 of 17 weeks of training, ha.  I'll let you know how I'm doing in the fall, when the midweek training run is longer than most runs I've ever done, and the long runs top out around 20 miles.  Still, I'm excited to challenge myself and get in serious shape.

What are you liking right now?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Anejo Manhattan

This drink is created by renowned cocktail consultant Ryan Margarian.  He is the co founder of Aviation Gin in Portland, a craft gin that comes in a beautiful art deco style bottle.  It's a nice change up from a standard Manhattan, though it's a bit more involved.  

2 ounces aƱejo tequila
1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
1/4 ounce Licor 43
Dash of Angostura bitters
Dash of orange bitters
1 fresh cherry

As all of these ingredients are transparent, this is one to stir with ice and then strain.  I used mole bitters rather than the angostura, which I thought worked quite well with the Spanish/Mexican vibe of this cocktail.  Margarian soaks a fresh cherry in tequila, then wraps it in mole salami.  I used thinly sliced chorizo around Amarena cocktail cherries.

A decent summer cocktail with savory aspects.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

If By Whiskey

I have been reading Bourbon, Straight: The Uncut and Unfiltered Story of American Whiskey, by Chuck Cowdery.  Cowdery, a Kentucky bourbon insider, has a blog that's great if you really want to get more in depth in the bourbon world.  In the book, he writes about Judge Noah "Soggy" Sweat, who served on the Mississippi state legislature in the late 1940s.  Mississippi was the last state to repeal Prohibition, and Judge Sweat gave this speech to the legislature, addressing the issue head on.  Well, sort of head on...

"My friends, I had not intended to discuss this controversial subject at this particular time. However, I want you to know that I do not shun controversy. On the contrary, I will take a stand on any issue at any time, regardless of how fraught with controversy it might be. You have asked me how I feel about whiskey. All right, here is how I feel about whiskey:

If when you say whiskey you mean the devil's brew, the poison scourge, the bloody monster, that defiles innocence, dethrones reason, destroys the home, creates misery and poverty, yea, literally takes the bread from the mouths of little children; if you mean the evil drink that topples the Christian man and woman from the pinnacle of righteous, gracious living into the bottomless pit of degradation, and despair, and shame and helplessness, and hopelessness, then certainly I am against it.

But, if when you say whiskey you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine, the ale that is consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and laughter on their lips, and the warm glow of contentment in their eyes; if you mean Christmas cheer; if you mean the stimulating drink that puts the spring in the old gentleman's step on a frosty, crispy morning; if you mean the drink which enables a man to magnify his joy, and his happiness, and to forget, if only for a little while, life's great tragedies, and heartaches, and sorrows; if you mean that drink, the sale of which pours into our treasuries untold millions of dollars, which are used to provide tender care for our little crippled children, our blind, our deaf, our dumb, our pitiful aged and infirm; to build highways and hospitals and schools, then certainly I am for it.

This is my stand. I will not retreat from it. I will not compromise."   Apparently he got rousing ovations from both sides of the fence.