Tuesday, December 21, 2010

From Hammersley with Sun

We are getting ready to go to Norway this week and it's going to be cold. Really, really cold. As in 5F kind of cold. I'm excited about it!! I've got a big puffy coat from when we went to Russia for NYE back in 2005, a new touke with ear flaps and new shearing lined boots. But as I get ready to pack tonight for the frigid weather I can't help but to think about the fun in the sun we had all summer.  And that makes me realize I never posted about our summer weekend at Hammersley Inlet (as well as many other places I'm behind on, natch!)

Doesn't that look just about perfect? It was! Our very nice friend Leslie invited us to use her family's summer house out by Shelton for the weekend. The drive was really pretty and once we crossed the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and headed southwest of Bremerton it was un-chartered territory for us. Hammersely Inlet is just one of the many arms of water leading out to Puget Sound. They are very well known for the geoduck farms that sit just under the surface of the water. And of course the oysters and clams that come from this area are delicious. We also witnessed the biggest tide changes I have ever seen.

The weather was just hot enough to encourage swimming and eating outside. The first night after dinner we enjoyed the warm night sitting down by the water and watched shooting stars.

Waking the next morning in almost total silence and sunshine was amazing. There were only 6 other people in the area and those we only saw from a very far distance. Our only neighbors in fact seemed to be 2 otters or seals (how sad that we are such city folk we don't know the difference?) who kept an eye on us all weekend.

The few days away from noise, traffic, house chores, computers, etc was just what we needed. There wasn't a lot of planning before and the only sightseeing to do was paddling around the inlet. Nothing to do but soak up the rays and watch shellfish spit water to the sky like mini Bellagio Fountains.

So as I head off to pack silk long-johns, fur earmuffs and wool socks I'm remembering how it feels to wear flip flops while holding a cold beer lounging around the south sound. Thanks Leslie!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

more pics...

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

"...the significance of this name will never be erased from German history."

[I'm taking a turn posting this time. -Dayne]
"Dachau - the significance of this name will never be erased from German history. It stands for all concentration camps which the Nazis established in their territory." -- Eugen Kogon
Twenty-eight or so years ago I traveled to Germany with my family and visited the Dachau concentration camp. Even at the age of 13, it made a large impact on me. I can remember several years later writing about my visit for more than one writing assignment in high school (those writings seem to have not survived; too bad, I would like to re-read them).

My memory of the place was almost all black and white, no doubt due to faulty memories significantly influenced by WWII newsreels and movies. Still, it came as somewhat of a surprise when Wendy, Della, Greg and I arrive via train on a sunny September day to see the verdant green trees lining the camp; I was half-expecting nothing but shades of grey.

Actually, I was even surprised by the town. I knew intellectually that Dachau was located in a town of the same name, and that the townspeople have been highly criticized for their apparently-willful ignorance during the war, but I had no slightest recollection of seeing Dacha-the-town before, having edited that out in the post-production of my earlier memories. It turns out that Dacha is now a small, attractive and modern Bavarian city, but we had to wonder what it's like to live there. For better or worse, Dachau will never really be known for anything except the camp, and I have to believe that casts a pall over living there.

From the train station we took a short bus to the camp and memorial. It turns out that almost every aspect of the modern visitor experience is pretty new; with few exceptions, the plaques, visitor center, and museum displays mostly built in the past decade or so. Whatever remnants I had of the post-war additions were completely irrelevant, but I was glad to see that there continues to be funding for significant updates to the facilities.

One thing that hasn't changed at all is the grim greeting above the front gate through which so many passed on the final journey of their lives. Arbeit macht frei ("work liberates", or "work will make you free") -- the last cruel joke of Heinrich Himmler's "Final Solution".

Very few buildings at Dachau still stand. Only a few of the former barracks, including one where some of the most heinous human medical experiments were conducted, remain in the grid where thirty-four once stood. The crematorium -- surprisingly small for the volume of grim work that went on there -- has been kept intact, and the former administration building is now the on-site museum.

The barracks themselves, once the site of suffering and inhumanly cramped living conditions, are weirdly sterile and empty. The bunks are all recreations, which accounts for some of that; I think the other part is that the suffering of Dachau was deeply personal, even though carried out with Teutonic efficiency; without those that were affected, ultimately the buildings mostly revert to simple wood, iron and glass, devoid of human emotion.

We spent a fair amount of time in the museum, but in all honesty it's a bit overwhelming after a while. The history of the place is well-documented, and the modernity and thoroughness of the displays lend a somewhat clinical feel to the whole operation. On the other hand, the sculptures that have been commissioned for the memorial are much better ay conveying what actually happened in the minds of the inmates.

Would I recommend a visit to others in the area? Absolutely. However, we did overhear one family whose children (maybe about 10 and 11?) had no interest in seeing more after a while, because of the nightmares it was going to give them.

A good map of Dachau can be found at http://www.scrapbookpages.com/Dachauscrapbook/DachauCampMap.html and http://www.kz-gedenkstaette-dachau.de/memorial/topography.html -- the official visitor site is at http://www.kz-gedenkstaette-dachau.de/english.html

The full set of our pictures from our visit is here.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Living Like Locals

As New Years Eve 2010 approaches and we gear up for another annual trip with friends I think back to our 2009 adventure. Going where we were certainly welcomed but not allowed by our own country, Cuba seemed a tad scary, mysterious and difficult to get to.

We chose to stay with a local family in their casa particular. It’s a unique way to experience how many typical Cuban families live while at the same time helping them to earn an income.

In our week with our hosts they opened their home to us, told us stories, talked frankly of politics, introduced us to their family and friends and spoke of the future.  We invited them to partake in our nightly cocktail hour, sharing various treats we had brought from the states and gin martinis made with “real French vermouth” as they happily noted.

One day they held a big party for their family and friends and graciously invited us to join. They filled our paper plates with mounds of treats they had splurged on and prepared for the special occasion- roasted pork, tamales, cake, etc. We passed out the only thing we had a lot of: home baked Christmas cookies. The guests took it upon themselves to give us salsa lessons making it even more fun!

On New Years Eve we invited them to share in our champagne.  We noticed the empty bottles were saved as souvenirs. My own wonderful souvenir is the memory of that truly unique experience!

 This post has been entered into the Grandtourismo HomeAway Holiday-Rentals travel blogging competition

Friday, November 12, 2010

Houston- One Night Only

When you use miles to travel the airlines like to play little games with you like "let's see how far in the opposite direction we can make them go from their final destination". Our game started with us flying from Seattle to Houston to Amsterdam and finally to Munich for our recent trip to Germany.

Some might feel slighted or put out but not us. Not when Anvil, one of the country's best bars, is smack dab in Houston and without this layover we would most likely not be drinking there as we don't find ourselves in Texas very often (ie: never).

So we checked into the Alden Hotel which had a great big room, big bathroom and a cool view from our windows. The hotel looked quite hip and boutique-y but the service just didn't quite match up. All in all a good place but not a great place, although I don't know if there are that many options in Houston.

After a few drinks in the bar we headed out to dinner at Hugo's. Yum. A big boisterous place which is just plain fun to be in. Fantastic service, drinks & food! Highly recommend a meal here if you are in the area.

And the location couldn't have been better as it was just blocks from Anvil!

I loved Anvil. It's got everything I like in a bar. A great mix of people, fantastic bartenders who don't act like stuck up assholes, an amazing list of cocktails, a big long bar with lots of action on both sides and beautiful glassware.

We were lucky to be there when Mindy was shaking, full of sass and ready with a smile the girl knows how to make a drink! And it was just a perfect evening out with amazing libations. If you find yourself in Houston you should absolutely find yourself a bar stool at Anvil.

Monday, November 1, 2010

24 Hours Victoria

The Victoria Clipper has been offering great overnight packages to Victoria, BC. Round trip Clipper tickets and a nice hotel for $115 pp, I got an additional 10% off for "liking" them on Facebook making our weekend getaway under $200 total. Clipper tickets are usually $139pp roundtrip and the hotel rooms start at $120 so I thought this was a great deal and I had never been on the Clipper!

We got up early Saturday morning and boarded the Clipper I right before sunrise. It was super foggy as we pulled out into Puget Sound so the vessel was moving a bit slower and continuously blowing the fog horn. But once we got up into the islands it was bright and sunny, a beautiful fall day.

A bit of breakfast, some mimosas, a little light reading and 3 hours later we pulled into Victoria Harbor. As our hotel was literally across the street we walked to the Grand Pacific and were pleasantly surprised that our room was ready for us so early and that we had a bit of a view of the outer harbor.

Taking advantage of the weather we headed to Red Fish Blue Fish which had been highly recommended. This little seafood grill housed in an old rebuilt wharf container didn't disappoint! My fried halibut & chips were delicious and Dayne's Tuna Belly sandwich was so meaty and smoky. Little did we know that we were there on their 2nd to last day of the season and are now closed until Feb 1st. The place was packed with locals, tourists and seagulls the size of Mini Coopers. One dive bombed the table we were at and stole my coleslaw container!! Luckily my fish and chips were well guarded.

The rest of the afternoon was spent leisurely strolling around town and shopping. It's a very cute little town, smaller than I remembered and easy to walk around.

Delicious cocktails later that evening at Clive's. They have a unique program called the Dead Bartender's Society where they create a menu of drinks based on the mixology of someone late and great. Hugo Ensslin was in the spotlight last month. Shawn and his team are really passionate about their libations, I'd highly recommend this as a "must stop" for a drink.

On to Stage for a delicious dinner served up to us by our friend Stephen. Awesome charcuterie and seasonal delicacies. They've got this octopus that is poached and then fried with rice flour. I've never had anything like it! And the gnocchi was light as pillows, yummm. Visit with friend and amazing food = WIN! 

We started our next day with a swim at the indoor pool at our hotel. It's huge and housed in an atrium style room so it's bright and filled with light. This was also the last day that the pool/sauna/hot tub was to be open before they started a remodel project.

A long relaxed lunch at Bon Rogue and a bit more shopping and our little excursion was about over. We stopped at Pig BBQ to pick up pulled pork, fried chicken, beans, slaw and cornbread for dinner on the Clipper and then it was time to go. Our return voyage was on the Clipper IV which was much newer and nicer. Tables at all the window seats and video maps to follow along with the ride.

A really nice weekend getaway made even better by the gorgeous weather and awesome food and drinks, thanks Victoria!


Friday, October 8, 2010

Prost! Oktoberfest Day 1

Oktoberfest. I'll admit it, the word brings to mind the scenes in National Lampoon's European Vacation. I really didn't know what to expect and now that I've seen it/done it I know there is no way I can ever come close to really explaining it to you. I have a lot of friends who grew up in Germany and they tried to prepare me for it but in the end you have to go and experience it for yourself. And you should, it's possibly one of the most fun experiences we have ever had- and we've had a few!

Let's start at the beginning. Our rented house was in Kaufering, a small Bavarian town about 40 mins by train outside of Munich. We road in at 10:30am on a train packed full of locals from other outlying towns dressed in their lederhosen & dirndl, drinking bottled Radlers and Colabier (yep, half coke half beer- tastes strangely of cherry coke). You could tell everyone was having a great time and in a good mood- it was opening weekend of Oktoberfest, the 200th anniversary.

We started our day at the Riflemans & Costume Parade which is a 2 hour fashion show of the Bavarian people's dress, bands, weaponry and of course beer. It was really cool to see all the different regions represented, the decorated lederhosen & dirndl and the huge horses pulling carts loaded with beer barrels.

After a nice lunch we headed to the Theresienwiese on the bahn. A man asked me if it was my first time and when I said yes he replied "you'll never forget it". Amen. We exited off the train in a crush of people all heading up the escalators towards the light finding ourselves face to face with the huge fairgrounds and approximately 300-400k people. Holy hell!! I think we were all in shock for a minute. We walked around trying to take it all in but it was impossible and completely mind boggling.

We found our tent- we had reservations at the Haufbrauhaus Tent which is the largest tent at the festival holding over 9k people inside, upstairs and outside- and found the guy who's table we were buying seats at. There were 12 of us total and he led us inside and through the maze of people to our table. It was a MADHOUSE! And it was only 4pm. We were so happy to sit and just take it all in, an incredible site.

The tent was gigantic and beautiful. There was just a constant din of noise even when the band wasn't playing. But as soon as the music started all 6,000 people inside started to sing and bang steins and stand on their benches. Controlled mayhem as I've never encountered. I literally had bruises on both my hands from holding heavy steins all night.

Our table mates were all Americans, this wasn't their first time as it was ours and they were a blast to be with. The steins of beer kept coming and the band kept playing and all of a sudden we realized we had committed the biggest sin at Oktoberfest, we hadn't ordered or eaten our 1/2 chickens! Our lunch was long gone and as day turned to night there would be no opportunity to eat with every person now on their benches and tables. Duh! Rookie mistake.

The table of German's next to us were fun and friendly and the girls taught Dayne the words to the German song Ein Prosit and me the words and dance to Fliegerlied. Of course everyone knew the words to the American songs that were so popular- Hey Baby, Sweet Home Alabama, Bohemian Rhapsody, What A Feeling

We left to catch our 10:30 train and ended up sharing seats with a group of local kids who had also been there. Their way of staying awake on the train ride home after drinking all day? Snuff! They all had their own snuff tins and the girls were very proud that they had apricot flavored while the boys had menthol. Crazy.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Beautiful Marseille!

It's been a heck of a busy summer, which of course is my excuse for having not posted about our June trip to the south of France. That and an unfortunate situation in which our camera memory card went missing and a weeks worth of photos from Marseille & Provence were lost. Only a few random shots captured on our iPhones remain. And those that our friends nicely sent to us to help with our loss. Let me tell you, I don't wish that experience on my worst enemy. It was heartbreaking to say the least. But as Dayne said we are lucky to have our amazing memories and so with that, on this cold and rainy Seattle day, I am going to dive into a little recollection of the sunny weekend we spent in Marseille.

As mentioned it was tough to get here but once we did we were charmed. Our room at the Grand Tonic Hotel was perfect! A large, corner room looking right out onto the port was just what we had hoped for.

Setting off to wander the port, the evening was warm and sunny and it was time for a cocktail! We grabbed a table on the sidewalk at Om Cafe which had both gin fizzes and whiskey sours on their cocktail menu. This would not be our only time ordering refreshing and well made gin fizzes from Om.

Next up we spent a wonderful evening at the well known Restaurant Miramar feasting on the local specialty- Bouillabaisse. The huge bowls of seafood were presented to us first followed by the even larger bowls of broth which was incredibly rich and filling. We could barely make a dent in ours (after 1st courses of foie gras and a crab, mango and avocado millefeuille) but watched the rest of the diners sop up every last bit with toasts.

The following day was all about sightseeing! We strolled past the fish vendors, their catches set up on card tables. The local chefs and housewives inspected their goods- most still alive or so fresh they were stiff with rigor mortis. A public bus took us through the city and up to Notre Dame de la Garde. The cathedral sits on the highest point in Marseille offering amazing views in every direction of the city, the port and the beautiful blue sea. After lunch we stumbled upon a wedding and then went tasting pastis at Le Maison du Pastis. Finally just as the day was the hottest we set off on a 2 1/2 hour cruise of the Calanques. These incredible limestone cliffs cut deep back into the land creating little coves of clear blue water which visitors anchor their boats in. The calanques are jagged and steep and many people hike and rock climb them. It was really stunning and unlike anything I've seen before!

There was a big street festival going on that evening and we walked past the stages set up for music and dance on our way to Chez Entienne.  This small, family run grill has no menu and they don't speak English but they are quite well known for their cheese and anchovy pizza. We started with that and some pastis followed by a pavé of beouf for two which came perfectly cooked and accompanied with salad, roasted potatoes and penne in tomato sauce. Our dinner with a bottle of wine, espresso and shared creme caramel came to only 68€! Unfortunately they only take cash, which we were shy of, so a fellow patron explained to Dayne where the nearest "distributor" was. I finished the wine and espresso and hoped they wouldn't put me to work washing dishes :)

It was a perfect little weekend, although rough in the start and too short over all. I'd go back to Marseille in a minute!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

I tried Black Tot -- have you?

[Dayne here...]

It's not often that I get to try a $1200 bottle of rum.

Only an eyedropper-full, but still...

As a special treat at the end of the At Full Sail session, two bottles of Black Tot, the bottled remnant of the daily ration of the British Navy, were served to attendees. I don't have too may words other than WOW to describe it.

I'm starting to figure out how I can justify acquiring a bottle... (if Wendy is reading this...hey look over there, something shiny!)

(More information on the release is available from an article here: http://www.examiner.com/x-15885-Rum-Examiner~y2010m5d20-Black-Tot-rare-reserve-rum-to-debut-on-Black-Tot-Day)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Like tuna fish to a cat

Review of the Tales session "At Full Sail -- Spirits at Proof, Navy Strength and Overproof in History and Application"

[Dayne here...]

I've discovered that late nights, "early" mornings, spotty or non-existent Internet access, and high proof spirits don't make for rigorous note-taking or timely blogging. Any mistakes in the following review can be blamed directly on one or more of those conditions.

Wendy and I (and seemingly everyone) attended a seminar on high-proof spirits that we'd previewed on this blog a few weeks ago. The panel was moderated by Eric Seed and consisted of Audrey Saunders, Britt Chavannee, and Wayne Curtis.

I had to have a stern talk with my liver, who tried to flee for the exits when he saw the menu of gimlet (using Plymouth Navy Strength), Royal Million (with Lemon Hart 151), a single barrel cask strength bourbon, and a Newark (from Death & Co. I think???) with Laird's Bonded.

Wayne kicked things off with a Proof in History segment, where he talked about what proof is (ABV % times 2), who's historically cared (sailors and tax collectors), and then discussed the evolution of the daily tot in e British and other navies. Since water, beer, and wine would go bad in casks, rum was a stable potable liquid with which to appease sailors (Wayne didn't go into buggery or the lash, the other two staples of the British Navy. Wrong conference, perhaps.)

Other topics included the evolution of the hydrometer (Syke's supplanting Clarke's), the change from alcohol by weight to alcohol by volume, the Bottled in Bond Act in the States, and the gradual lessening of proof in even well-know spirits (e.g. Jack Daniels) in fairly recent years.

Britt talked about her family distillery business, from where such treasures as Red Hook rye have come. Sorry Britt, I don't have too many notes from your portion (Liver was revolting again and had to smack him down).

Audrey covered some of her early experiences with high-proof spirits (can you believe that only 5 or 6 years ago, Rittenhouse Bonded was basically unknown in NYC???) and the success with which Pegu Club incorporated Rittenhouse into their house Manhattan and Laird's into their Jack Rose). Audrey mentioned that the current American palette is definitely leaning towards "boozy and bitter" and, like tuna fish to a cat, there's no going back!

Eric discussed the 3-tier system of taxing and the high accumulative cost of taxes on high-proof alcohol. I'm sure he said more but the previous night was taking it's toll at that point.

Finally Wayne concluded with a little experiment that definitely did NOT violate any fire codes. Using a little black powder, he had one control (no alcohol), and 3 other tiny piles on which he dropped Pama, Plymouth Navy, and Lemon Hart 151. Disappointingly the Plymouth-soaked pile didn't ignite, but the control and the Lemon Hart were quite satisfying!

I'll post some pictures of the event in a separate post!

A single-sample measurement of the rotational period of the Carousel Bar at 29°57'15"N 90°4'3"W

Unadjusted for temperature, altitude, or ethanol content.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Questions Answered! The How's & Why's of Cocktails

I'm really excited about Tales of the Cocktail this week! Trying to find the time to attend all the seminars, tasting rooms, events and parties is a challenge but one I'm happy to tackle!

One of the seminars I'm really looking forward to is called The How's and Why's of Cocktails…an exploration of techniques, ingredients, and methodology. It's a seminar geared towards bartenders (which as you know I'm not) but it speaks to my "foodie" side which is how I got interested in cocktails in the first place. The same interesting layers of flavors that you create when you saute, roast and braise are what I find in those cocktails made by people who really know their craft.

And speaking of people who really know their craft the seminar features Harold McGee, Audrey Saunders and Tony Conigliaro!

Harold McGee may be best know for his book On Food And Cooking: The Science And Lore Of The Kitchen. A food scientist and writer he has been recognized for his studies and knowledge by the likes of the James Beard Foundation & International Association of Culinary Professionals. He writes a weekly column for the New York Times and articles for a slew of other culinary oriented magazines. His insights are going to be really interesting and I'm looking forward to his discussion.

Audrey Saunders is owner of New York's Pegu Club, an institution in classic cocktails and a pilgrimage for most who are serious about their libations.   Audrey's ability to craft cocktails is no secret, her drinks are replicated by the world's best (I just had "Audrey's Gin Gin Mule at the newly opened Prescription Lounge in Paris, France last week!). Her thirst for knowledge is contagious and her ability to teach is impressive. Any seminar with Audrey is going to be fun, informative, fun, well researched and fun!

Tony Conigliaro is owner of 69 Colebrooke Row, one of London's premier establishments for original hand crafted cocktails. He has been in the industry for years and is know for creating drinks that are inspired and executed scientifically. His libation the No5 Champagne Cocktail has received much attention for it's ability to mimic the perfume of the same name.

Regarding this particular seminar (the only one Conigliaro is giving as far as we know) Tony mentioned to us that he's looking forward to discussing new and interesting concepts that will be simple and very usable by bartenders to get better use of their products. He's excited to work with Audrey and Harold "because I always feel I learn something as well". I think we'll all be learning a lot this this Friday!

At the time I wrote this there were less than 20 tickets left, grab one if it's not soldout!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Guess Who's Coming To Dinner...

On our flight from Seattle to Marseille yesterday we had a stopover in Amsterdam, unfortunately that stop over ended up being a sleepover due to France having an all day general transportation strike.

Luckily for us we have friends who live in the city and were gracious enough to invite us over for dinner in their beautiful apartment. The evening was so warm and pretty that we decided to sit outside on their rooftop deck, the views of Amsterdam stunning.

We brought along some cold Taittinger champagne to start the night, Klary made a delicious dinner of cheesy baked penne, roasted broccoli and green salad with apples, prosciutto and mozzarella . There was dessert of yogurt, strawberry rhubarb compote and stroopwaffel (Dayne's favorite). It was a perfect and relaxing evening, catching up with friends we don't see often and getting to know them even better. To wrap up the evening Dennis held a Genever tasting with 3 very nice subjects- Schermer's Oude Jenever a light style at 36% made in Amsterdam; Filliers 125th Year Jubileum Graanjenever, a very whisky flavored Belgium spirit at 42% and finally Filliers 8 year old 50% Grand Jenever which was my favorite!

We feel lucky to know people in different countries and luckier still to call them friends. Klary and Dennis turned what could have been an overly frustrating situation into an incredibly enjoyable evening in a city we already love. Thank you and see you in October!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Swim with the Fishes

I've been in San Francisco a lot lately, I love it! I love the city, the weather, the food, the cocktails. So even though I had just gone with some European friends in Feb I went with my friend Della and her mom Sandy again in April. Della's mom has a time share in Union Square and had never been, Della hadn't been since college and I'm always up for a trip obviously!

One thing Sandy wanted to see was the aquarium. I hadn't been to the one there and it was very near the In N Out Burger (priorities people, priorities!) so off we went!

How cool are these jellyfish??? There were a few tanks of them and they were stunning!

Walking in the tunnel where the fish are next to and above you was amazing! Huge sharks, bass, schools of anchovies and octopus are all swimming around as we walked through.


Just outside the aquarium is Pier 39 where all the sea lions hang out. Really? How does that thing stay afloat with them all??

Anyway I really thought the Aquarium of the Bay was a great way to spend a not so sunny afternoon and walk off the In N Out Burger.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Antiquing Near and Far...

Some girlfriends and I have done a couple of day trips north to Snohomish to check out the antique shops. It's quite entertaining since we are all searching out similar items: vintage cocktail glassware and the like.

I don't know much about antiques, I pretty much buy what I like, but I have to say that this is a little shopping past time that I have really began to enjoy.

Last September when I was in Paris my girlfriend Forest and I went to the most famous of all antique markets, Les Puces (literally translated as The Fleas). Over 2 centuries old this is also the largest market of it's kind in the world, attracting up to 180,000 visitors on a weekend alone.

With over 17 acres of shops it took Forest and I a full day to see it all. It's amazing the things that are for sale! There are separate areas for various kinds of dealers and each one has it's own store. Very different from the image in my head of a fair ground kind of situation with ware's strewn across blankets and tables.

One of the halls even had artists who were displaying works made from antique or vintage goods.
Back here at home Snohomish calls itself the "Antiques Capitol of the Northwest" and with good reason. Every business in the town seems to be dealing. Granted antiques in Snohomish are a bit different than what I found in Paris!
 This very well could have been my complete set from my childhood!
 Puppets Anyone?
Nickel a Ride!
2 years ago while visiting Provence we went to I'Isle sur la Sorgue which has a reputation as the antiques center of Provence. Most things were amazingly expensive but it was so fun to look at. I did find these funny little gadgets meant to hold your lamb chop bone while you ate it so that you wouldn't get your hands greasy. I loved them but didn't buy them and now I think of them all the time! I'm heading back to Provence this month and I think I'll be searching those out again! 

Thursday, June 3, 2010

i ♥ >40%

[Wendy is the anchor that keeps this blog ship afloat, but every once in a while Dayne needs to contribute too. What follows is his attempt to keep up.]

The earth is flat. (And 6000 years old.) 640K ought to be enough for anybody. Your satisfaction is our priority. Size doesn’t matter. 80 proof is fine.


The vast majority of us live with a lot of myths, fables, untruths, compromises, self-delusions, and downright disappointments. The 80° (40% alcohol by volume) issue seems to be one of them. For the most part, the occasional gin aside and not counting ill-advised Bacardi 151 or Everclear experiences in the teen or college years, we're used to spirits bottled at the seemingly-arbitrary strength of 40% ethanol. It's always seemed strange to me that producers add water to their distillates to hit the same number for everything from the blandest of vodkas to aged cognacs and tequilas; how can that result in the best products? It's like saying that all chocolate recipes have to have the exact same amount of cacao. (Thankfully most gins don't seem to have fallen into that trap, with 94.6 proof or thereabouts being pretty standard for London dry styles.)

In a slight departure from some of our normal posts, I’m not going to talk about where we’ve visited or what we’ve done lately, at least not directly. Instead, I’m going to preview a session on strong spirits entitled At Full Sail: The History and Application of Spirits at Proof, Navy Strength and Overproof that Eric Seed will be presenting (and that Wendy and I will be attending) during this year’s New Orleans-based Tales of the Cocktail.

We had the opportunity to correspond via email with Audrey Saunders and Wayne Curtis, two of the panel members for that session, and have included their responses to a few questions below. With what what we’ve heard so far, we can’t wait to attend!

Dayne & Wendy: What was the first overproof spirit (> 40% ABV) that really made an impression on you?

Audrey: Rum for sure. I was too young to appreciate the flavor profile of whatever it was, but it made for one heck of a pyrotechnic show. And really, who doesn't love that?

Wayne: Lemon Hart 151. It wasn't just the heat, it was the intensity of the flavor that really came through and intriuged me.

D&W: What's your current favorite overproof spirit?

Wayne: Smith & Cross I like a lot. But I'm also really partial to Booker's.

Audrey: I don't have an overall favorite; they all serve different purposes. I can enjoy an overproof whiskey (with a splash of water), as much as an overproof rum (with perhaps as a float), or an overproof gin (either as a martini, or worked into a cocktail). They're all different animals. And then of course, there's Chartreuse.

D&W: If you could ask any one producer to move a product to a higher proof, what would it be?
Audrey: Cognac, for sure. All of the old recipes were done with 100 proof. Unfortunately many of today's cognac cocktails aren't as "zippy" as they potentially could be, it's that extra bit of octane that will give cognac drinks the spine and "umph" they need to maintain their structure.

Wayne: I'd be more inclined to ask Lemon Hart to crank up production on their 151, and make it more widely available. I think it's still easily found in the Pacific Northwest, but elsewhere it's hard to track down. And it's so essential in a number of great tiki drinks.

D&W: What interested you about this seminar topic?

Wayne: A simple question: why do so many overproof taste so good and so strikingly different than their lower-proof cousins?

Audrey: Eric invited me to participate. He has picked my brains occasionally over the years about different products he was developing, and asked me for my thoughts on 100 or 114 proof for Smith & Cross. I tasted them both, and felt strongly that he just go ahead and own it. The 100 was good, but the 114 was even better, and at that proof, really showed off the quality of the distillate. Everybody wanted a high-quality rum, and the 114 separates Smith & Cross from the boys. I've always been a real fan of his concepts.

D&W: What do you hope to achieve/ get across to the attendees?

Wayne: A bit of history, and a bit of science. How did most spirits sold in the US end up at 40 percent? And how does a higher-proof alcohol affect the taste of a drink?

Audrey: Not to be afraid of working with higher proofs, and a better understanding of what they bring to the table. For instance, the flavor profiles of the high-quality distillates hold up beautifully with some dilution!

D&W: Why do you they think people should attend this seminar? Who would get the most value out of it?

Audrey: Any professional, certainly, as well as people who are responsible for crafting cocktails.

D&W: Audrey, what's your favorite use for an overproof spirit?
Audrey: Google for a photo of "kill-devil cocktail site:urbandaddy.com" [D&W note: or just click here] ; you will see a photo of our Kill-Devil Cocktail, and the simple flaming garnish that we give to it. We simply invert a lime disc, and add a dropper-full of Elixir Vegetal de la Grande-Chartreuse (71% Alcohol). The drink has a rhum agricole base, and this works beautifully with it.

D&W: Wayne, have you ever tried lighting gunpowder after it's been exposed to Navy Strength rum?

[D&W note: You'll have to attend the seminar to get Wayne's answer to this one!]

Thank you Audrey and Wayne! Looking forward to seeing the both of you along with Eric and Britt at your Tales session.

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