Tuesday, October 27, 2009

McDonald's Abandons Iceland

So back when I was traveling around Iceland, I noted a distinct lack of McDonald's, despite a proliferation of KFC's and Subway's shops.  Not that I wanted to eat at one of course, but I was just curious and kept an eye out for any.  It's hardly surprising I didn't find one, because turns out:
The island has three McDonald’s restaurants, all of which will be closed.
 Due to the currency crisis the alternative was to charge the equivalent of over $6 for a Big Mac, which would have been the most expensive in the world.  Let this be a lesson to future countries who try to borrow too much and invest foolishly, there will be consequences.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Another month, another Mixology Monday. This MxMo's theme is still Vermouth, hosted by Vidiot at Cocktalians. This is my second drink for this month's MxMo, using Italian vermouth this time as opposed to my first, the Green Lantern, which used Dolin Blanc. Both of these are doing double duty in another way, since I mixed them up for recent TDNs.

I came up with the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen for the rather wide open category of Thursday Drink Night: Clear Spirits several weeks ago. I was lucky to have procrastinated posting it, because now I get to use it for MxMo as well.

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
  • 1 oz gin (Bulldog London Dry Gin)
  • 1 oz mezcal (Del Maguey Chichicapa)
  • 1/3 oz Velvet Falernum
  • 1/3 oz Fernet Branca
  • 1/3 oz Carpano Antica Formula vermouth
  • 2 dashes Xocolatl Mole bitters
Stir and and strain into cocktail glass.
When I initially presented this drink it was met with much skepticism due to the admittedly scary looking combination of several very boldly flavored ingredients, which do not at all obviously look like they would go well together. Thus the name. But once a couple guys got over their apprehension and tried it most quite enjoyed it, even extolling others to try it because despite its daunting recipe it is "actually good - honest. You should try it. Really." Although it did make one guy sneeze. Never found out if that was bad or a positive endorsement. Anyway, I enjoy it, and I liken it to a smoky manhattan.

Anyway, on to the discussion of the vermouth. Carpano Antica is still a sweet, or Italian vermouth, but it's made from a base of red wine as opposed to the more typical white. In addition, it is spicier and more robustly flavored than your typical Italian vermouth. And just plain better, it's great stuff. I mentioned at the most recent TDN that it was my default and the response was that it should be everyone's. I think the Carpano is key to making this drink work as the dude who ties all the other guy's big flavors together and keeps them all in line.

Another note about vermouth in general: unlike liquors, it goes bad, so take steps to preserve it. At the very least, reseal it and keep it in the fridge, but I go one step further and use Private Preserve to replace the oxygen laden air in the bottle with inert gasses, to great success. Highly recommended, and for leftover wine as well. (Also at amazon.)

And note, I am well aware that the movie is pretty bad but I quite enjoyed watching it, it's in my wheelhouse, like almost all vampire stories, except of course Twilight which I have not seen but I'm quite sure is utter garbage.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Green Lantern Cocktail

Another month, another Mixology Monday. This MxMo's theme is Vermouth, hosted by Vidiot at Cocktalians. In my usual tradition, I've got two drinks, one with Italian vermouth and this one using Dolin Blanc. Both of these are doing double duty in another way, since I came up with them for recent TDNs.

This drink I came up with last night for the theme: "Not Absinthe: Aquavit, Arak, Anisette, Becherovka, Pernod, Ricard, Sambuca - any anise spirit that isn't absinthe!"

Green Lantern

  • 1½ oz Akvavit (Aalborg)
  • 1 oz Green Chartreuse
  • ½ oz Dolin Blanc Vermouth
  • 1 dash Celery Bitters
Stir and strain into brandy snifter and garnish with Hal Jordan's ring fashioned from a slice of jalapeño.

Now, you certainly have to like both aquavit and chartreuse to enjoy this drink, but that said, I think they do play nicely and cut some of each other's harshness. The Dolin mellows it even more and adds some floral notes. The celery bitters seem to be made for aquavit they go together so well. I usually reflexively add an extra dash of bitters to many recipes because I tend to really like them, but here just the one dash is perfect, two is too much. And the jalapeño is purely for the visual to complete the association with the name, I could not resist. Green Lantern was by far my favorite comic growing up. Heck, still is I suppose. I really hope the movie doesn't suck.

I also toyed with adding one of those light up fake ice cubes to make the name more apropos:

Here it is with the lights off. Didn't photograph too well, but it was a fun effect in reality.

Roomba Robot Vacuum:Pro and Con


You can schedule it to run everyday when you are at work, and it's really good at sucking up all the hair that your two dogs shed and otherwise spread everywhere when wrestling all the time. It's quite good at getting the hair before it gets knocked under the furniture and accumulates. It eats a surprising quantity of stuff every session.


The scheduling part isn't so great when you are an idiot guy who not only both thinks that the 6 month old puppy is well behaved enough to stay at home without being locked in the crate for an hour AND thinks that your wife's haircut takes only an hour because your haircuts take 10 minutes so how could they be that much longer AND leaves a tub of wasabi peas on the coffee table when you head to work only to be informed around lunchtime that your wife has returned from her haircut to discover the puppy has gotten into the wasabi peas and pooped on the floor and the Roomba dutifully followed it's schedule and proceeded to run over the poop before continuing on it's merry way spreading and swirling and smearing said poop all over both the floor and our now defenestrated rug. Emphasis on the smear and all over. So I do not recommend allowing that to happen.

Turns out the Roomba ate lots of the wasabi peas before the dogs got to them, so I guess chalk that up as a pro as well. (Actually more likely the dogs didn't in fact like the wasabi part I suppose, but the robot still cleaned 'em up.)

Don’t Be Bitter

The guys over at A Dash of Bitters are having a contest to give away a new and rare bottle of bitters, so I decided to play along. "Rare" as in only 100 bottles in the US. If you saw my previous post about bitters you know I like them, and I have to admit I can obsess about completing collections when it comes to stuff like this. In fact, since that post I added both Fee's Aztec Chocolate Bitters and Amargo Chuncho Peruvian Bitters from Cocktail Kingdom to my collection. Anyway, the contest is simple, I just have to write up this post and describe some cocktail collection or experience I'm jealous of. Easy, I'm jealous of all the people who posted at Kaiser Penguin who have bitter's I can't get my hands on because there were either homemade and a gift like Trader Tiki's Falernum Bitters (man those sound good), or because they were a limited edition from years past or never available by retail like several Bitterman's products. So that's that. Maybe I'll stumble across a source sometime. I did look into making my own, but at this point it seems way too involved even for me. As in procuring a barrel to age them in for 6 months after precisely mixing at least several different infusions and tinctures of various esoteric ingredients., you know, eye of newt and toe of frog and whatnot. (I do plan to make my own tonic next week though, I'll post the results of that endeavor after I see how it turns out.)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Jalisco Kernel

And here's my second for the tequila TDN a few weeks ago:

Jalisco Kernel
  • 1½ blanco tequila
  • 1 oz Rothman & Winter Orchard Apricot
  • ¾ oz lime juice
  • ½ tsp agave nectar
  • 2 dashes Bittermens Xocolatl Mole bitters
Shake and strain, garnish with lime wheel.

Speedy Gonzales Trap

For TDN a few weeks ago, the theme was tequila, here's my first one:

Speedy Gonzales Trap
  • 1 oz blanco tequila
  • ½ oz mezcal (Del Maguey Chichicapa)
  • ½ oz Solerno blood orange liquor
  • ½ oz Aperol
  • ¾ oz lime juice
  • 1 tsp luxardo maraschino
  • 1 tsp pomegranate molasses
  • 2 dashes grapefruit bitters
Shake and strain, garnish with lime wheel and a few pomegranate seeds. I thought the seeds would float, but they didn't, but it was kinda fun to crunch them at the end. Substitute cointreau for solerno if necessary, not sure how widely available it is currently.

Frond Fawewell

This week's Thursday Drink Night, or TDN, was sponsored by Square One Organic, and their new Square One Botanical was the theme. This spirit is difficult to classify, as it's not really a flavored vodka. I kinda think of it as a gin sans juniper, but this isn't fully correct both for technical reasons about how it is made and because, although it is infused with 8 botanicals, it eschews many of the stronger flavors you typically find in gins for more floral and fruit tones. For the record, those 8 they use are pear, rose, chamomile, lemon verbena, lavender, rosemary, coriander and citrus peel. Oh, and it's organic, right down to the rye used for the grain neutral spirit base. But I don't really care personally about that aspect. I just care that it turned out to be pretty good and people came up with some great drinks using it. Here's my concoction.

 Frond Farewell
  • 1½ oz Square One Botanical
  • generous ¾ oz simple syrup (1:1)
  • ¾ oz lime
  • 2 leaves basil
  • generous handful fennel fronds
  • 1 dash fee's cherry bitters
  • 2 oz club soda
Vigorously muddle fennel and basil with simple, add all rest but soda, stir and strain with julep strainer over rocks, stir again and top with soda; garnish with fresh fennel frond and basil flowers with leaf attached. Use lots of fennel, more than you think you'd need. Keep most of the herbs out with the julep strainer, but let some little pieces of the fronds get through.

As opposed to some of my other creations where I came up with a name and then made of a cocktail to match, this cocktail was inspired by an idea for a cool garnish, specifically the flowering basil plant in our herb garden. Apparently you are supposed to prune flowers from herbs in any case so the plants continue to direct their energy into leaves and their essential oils rather than going to seed, so this tactic was doubly good.
Wanting to add a bit more, I set my gaze upon the nearby fennel plant and it's copious fronds. I figured their fresh hint of anise would add to the complexity of the drink. With the base idea set, I turned to our simple minty friend the Mojito as a reference.
Using this recipe as the base, I swapped my two herbs for the mint and swapped out the rum. I originally crafted the drink using Bulldog Gin, which is light on the juniper and floral like the Botanical. It worked very well, and would have been happy to use it in the drink, but when the theme of TDN was announced I figured the Botanical would work very nicely as well, and it did. So if you can't get Square One products, or you just want a hint of juniper, I certainly encourage you to try a gin like Bulldog which is light on the juniper. A harsher gin I think would wash out the subtle fennel fronds.
Even though bitters are optionally called for in the Mojito, I initially wasn't going to use them here, but for a happy accident. When I was playing with the recipe I found I was without the soda, so I used some pretty bad cherry flavored seltzer I had lying around. Trying it with this I thought the cherry flavor might work well when made properly with club soda, thus the cherry bitters addition.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Oktoberfest Munich 09

I had the privilege last weekend of attending Munich for Oktoberfest again this year. I'd been before in 2001 and 2004, and I think this is a good pace to set for participation, don't think I could handle it every year. And so it began last Thursday:

From our hotel room balcony overlooking the Theresienwiese:

And why does the marvelousness that is döner not exist here in the US when the rest of the world has so much? Damn they are good. Btw, did you know that if you get a gyro in any of the 50 states it was likely mass produced in one of a small handfuls of factories outside Chicago? We need one of those here to make some döner.

At the Hofbräu-Festzelt Sat afternoon:

And just something I thought was cool:

Monday, October 5, 2009

Cost of Living NYC v Lansing, MI

I was in Lansing, Michigan for a wedding two weekends ago. Friday night after the rehearsal, ,we hit a local spot. Guess what four pitchers of quality local micro-brew beer in Lansing set us back (note 4 60 oz PITCHERS!):

That's right. $19.