Thursday, July 07, 2011

Ham Gravy

In the dark frigid recesses of my freezer is a jar;  a mason jar, sealed, it's content obscured my the thin film of frost on it's sides.  In it, is a frozen fatty globulous globe of gluten grease and salt.

Pork, as you know, has been plentiful 'round the G&T compound.  Ham has been in copious supply.  Ham.  Cured ham.  Fresh ham.  Slices of breakfast ham, ready for fried eggs, orange juice and coffee.

And Ham, when subjected to heat, renders its fats to juice, which, when thickened with rue,  transubstantiates into the holiest of holies of hillbilly cuisine.  Ham Gravy.

Now, yes, beef gravy is dark, thick and full of wonder.  Chicken gravy, well, tastes like chicken.  salty, creamy chicken, but chick nonetheless.

Ham gravy, however, is altogether another thing.  In it is the smoke from the cure, the fatty filth of the pig, and a mysterious well of salt, seemingly springing from Elysium itself...

Ham gravy, while a Epicurean marvel, should not be squandered upon potatoes.  No.  It should be applied to one thing, and one thing alone.  Biscuits.

Biscuits were born for ham gravy.  If it, however, spills off of your fluffy muffin and lands upon the scrambled egg beside it, no worry, that combo satisfies as well.

And so, each time I spy in to the freezer for the gin, or the ice or the bacon, and i see the jar of gravy in stasis, I pause and consider, "is it too late for biscuits...?"

  
Honolulu HAMmer


1 1/2 oz Vodka
1/2 oz. Amaretto
1 splash Grenadine
1 Splash Pineapple Juice


Shake over ice, serve straight up.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Episode Two

The Vegan Black Metal chef is back for the next recipe...

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Symbols

Have you ever pledged allegiance to a flag?  Like, you know, a rectangle of colorful fabric... ?

I have, and I never really thought much about it.  But if and when you do actually think about it, and the words you use to make the pledge, it's really quite perplexing.

I mean, it's a piece of cloth on a stick.

Now, sure, the Pledge contains all manner of modifying conjunctions (i.e "and the Republic for which it stands") that do give it some modicum of meaning, but still, a flag??  Sure folks will tell you that people have died for the flag, but no, no one has ever willing given up their lives for a piece of cloth.  The Republic?  Absolutely.  Their homes and families? Yes.  Freedom?  You bet.

But not the flag.

People love them some symbols though, and no one more than Americans.


I mean we REALLY dig our symbols.  And they are everywhere.




Symbols are simple to process, easy to understand.  They take the place of more than just words, however, inspiring instant emotion response for those in the know.  They are used to communicate, motivate and manipulate.  Business, politics, athletics and religion; the near sum of modern American life, draw deeply, all, from the symbolic well.

Symbolic thinking, though, carries beyond the borders of commerce and transaction; beyond the mass marketing marks of trade.  Symbolism has rooted itself into the very fabric of our world views.  It feeds our bumper-sticker philosophy and helps us pick our socio-political teams.

On one side we have:


And on the other side, we have:



Of course, sometimes we co-opt each others symbols in the process:


You get the point...

The problem is that we have come to place too much emphasis on the symbolic.  To be sure, symbolism has its place.  It's just that, when the symbolic takes the place of the substantive, we fall prey to our baser instincts and spin our collective wheels in the mud of vanity.

Symbolic stories make for better ratings.  They are spicier, guaranteed to shock and awe at least SOMEONE!  And that is what the media feeds us, and it is what we lap up like mindless zoo animals.

I mean, right now, there are budgetary negotiations, international wars, trade imbalances, constitutional infringements, and debt.  The debt, in fact, is so dire that the credit rating for the entire US government is in risk of being down graded.

But that's hard to think about.  It involves words and critical thought.  So, what do we care about?  What is the end-time sign of the apocalypse du jour?

It's this:



Who cares?  I mean really.  People I'll never meet had sex with people I'll never know.  How is that news?  How does it change anything at all?

OK, this one may have misappropriated presidential campaign funds.  I get that one.


But really???

Sex?

Drugs?


Rock 'n Roll??


It just doesn't matter...

The Patriot
1/3 oz Blue Curacao
1/3 oz White Creme de Cacao
1/3 oz Grenadine
Layer in a shot glass and serve

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Shave and a Haircut


There are places in the world where women will walk for hours in bare feet over rough terrain to carry a couple of gallons of clean water back to their families.

In this country, some women have the time and money to pay other people to wax their cooters for them.



The Bikini
2 oz Vodka
1 oz White Rum
1/2 oz Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 oz Lemon Juice
1 tsp Sugar
Shake with ice, strain, serve with a twist of lemon...

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Wolves, Nipples and Whores

"This is the best television program, ever!" I declared.

Again.

"Oh really?" She stated, rather than asked, my wife with bemused half-interest.

"OK, no." I admitted.  Knowing that my big statement had little in the way of objective reasoning or foundation to support it.

Good, for certain, and among the best, certainly well worth watching.  More so than your unrealistic reality drivel that so many fawn for. It doesn't really matter that the fat girl can dance.  Who cares that the gay boy can sing.  And I couldn't squeeze out enough liquid shit to denote my level of interest in which hot blond chick the hot greasy dude will give a rose to.

Story is, of course, king.  As is character and craft.  Give me dark.  Give me edgy.  Give me something with wit.

Squandering my sacred evening hours watching mindless reality nonsense is akin to hanging at the bus station, begging for spare cigarettes.  Why live, really, if you are going to waste your precious few remaining hours so?

But there is, and has been, work worth watching.

And so it was tonight, having reached the end of the 6th episode of Game of Thrones on HBO.  HBO.  HBO...  How has one cable network become the singular epicenter of all that is epic and grand on television.  Sure, the subscription relationship allows the occasional expletive or the subtly swinging titty, but there is more, so much more, to the quality of their original programming.

Beginning with the dysfunctional Soprano family, through the Fishers and now on to the Starks; HBO has produced, by my calculations, most of the most-compelling programming in the last 10 years.

  
Carnivale, Dead Wood, Rome, The Wire, Six Feet Under, Boardwalk Empire, Treme, True Blood and now, Game of Thrones...  If I were to make my top ten all time list, which I am not, so just settle down,  there would be little room left for the likes of MASH, West Wing, Battlestar and X-Files with the fat load of throbbing HBO programing.

If pressed, I'd pick the Wire, I suppose, as the Best-In-Show, but only narrowly nosing out Dead Wood.  Carnivale, it could have been, if it had not been shut down before its time.

But now, it is the dark and plodding, vaguely-mystical, goth-o-drama from the mind of George RR Martin that has become the compulsion over which I obsess.  It is a world in which dwarves are wicked and witty, queens are incestuous, heroes are dullards, whores have perfect nipples, and nosey children get thrown out of windows.

If you have not sampled, I invite you to try, only start from the beginning and journey across the seven kingdoms to the Wall, and the white walkers beyond...

      
Kings Ruin
2 oz cognac
1 pint Dry Champagne 
Serve with a lemon twist

Monday, May 23, 2011

Juniper

Gin, it was once believed, held magical healing properties.  This opinion was held, of course, by the Dutch,  a people notable for building their entire civilization near the sea, but below sea level.

These were the people responsible for athletic shoes carved from blocks of wood.

Their emigrants invented Apartheid.

This is the nation whose football team dresses like this:


They are, however, also noted for their progressive tolerance to the finer vices in life.  But most notably, they invented Gin.  Sure, sure it was conceived of as less a cocktail mixer and more a miraculous cure of most modern ailments; but still, a mighty contribution to the panoply of gastronomical delights...

Actually, I have no idea whether the Dutch invented gin or not.  I just wanted to riff on the Dutch for a bit...

Anyway...

Whether inventors or no, the Dutch did perfect the recipe for fermenting and distilling the tar-like pungent sap of the humble juniper berry.  And any right imbiber would tell you, 200 years ago, that if your Jenever did not come from Holland, it was probably crap, if not outright toxic.

Now, what you and I call Gin today, is not what they called Gin or Jenever back in the day.  Today's gins are not actually Gin at all.  They are more closely related to vodkas, distilled, filtered and re-flavored with hints of citrus, flowers, juniper, whatever.

The old school Gin, however, tasted like tequila.  Or more precisely, tequila made from the shrubs in your front yard.  I thank sea-faring Amanda for the bottle of Jenever she brought to me from a wayward visit to Amsterdam all these many years ago.  It took a while to acquire the taste, but I mourned its absence once it was gone.

But now, what's this, tales of a gin-infuse wonderland?  A sinfully villainous Valhalla of little green bottles, marching, armed with sidecars of lime and tonic?  What witchcraft has wrought such a mystical mirage of drunken gluttony??


East coast Amy, it seems, has been busy building this liver-slaying arsenal of booze.  Sure, it's mostly Tanqueray, you might say, but what the cache lacks in quality, it more than makes up for in quantity.  And besides, it Tanqueray, not Gilbeys for godsake...

Apparently she is opening a gin store, or throwing a baby shower, or god knows what.  And after the first three or four bottles, no one is going to care what they are there for anyway.  Because, as the ancient Dutch will tell you, the is no drunk, like a Gin drunk.

Such glorious limes...


The Naked Martini
3 oz of gin
Pour into a chilled martini glass
place in the freezer for 30 minutes
garnish with an olive and serve immediately

Friday, May 20, 2011

Unconquerable

I am not a sports fan.

I do not lay around all weekend in my boxer shorts, flipping from game to game to game.  I do not do brackets.  I do not know the names of the guys on ESPN or even on Monday (Sunday?) Night Football.

This is not to say that I do not have a passion for certain teams.  In fact, it was, I believe, somewhere deep in the third quarter of the 2010 Fiesta Bowl, when TCU was gaining momentum against Boise State, that my wife, watching me perched raven-like atop the arm of my sofa, chewing my fingers, observed: "I see now why you do not follow sports."

It was 1981, in the Fall, although Fall in Los angeles is no different than Summer, and the Dodgers were down two games to nothing against the Yankees.  The series had moved from New York to Chavez Ravine, and the boys in blue needed to take advantage of the home field.  It was during that game, while I watched at home, that I prayed, fervently, penitently, beseechingly, for divine intervention.  Now, I'm not one for religious superstition, or for personal grandstanding, but the Dodgers did win that game, and the next three to win the World Series.

  
And well, ya, there are the Timbers...

So, it is not sport in general, but the teams to whom I have attached myself that stir the circulation, throttle the testosterone and rouses the inner caveman.  And no, I chose not to bore you with tales of Timbers fans, chainsaws and chants, but I am going to talk a little about a photo...

It's this one.


Pity it is so tiny in the wee confines of this page, but for the full effect, see it here.

This is a photo from a game that didn't matter.  It was from a game that did not count in the MLS standings.  It was a qualifier match for a secondary tournament, and ultimately had no long term effect on anything.

Only, it did.

This was the first game at home after two humiliating road losses.  It was the new squad's first game in front of their fans.  It was the game in which they figured out who they were.  The young man in green is Khalif Alhassan.  Born in Ghana, but found his way to weird wet Portland, this was the game in which he became a star.  After several half-assed appearances, and one thorough ass-whooping from the angry Scottish coach, Alhassan discovered his own determination and his ability to fly.

Into the wind, into the rain, with a horde of red-shirted defenders on his heels, this is the Khalif he has become.  This is also the wallpaper image on my computer, and it reminds me, when the rain is in my face, to keep running, because that is the only way to win the game.

And that is what sports can teach us.  And perhaps it is also why sports lend themselves to efficiently to film.  Again, I am really not a sports fan, yet so many of my favorite films are sports films.

Now, of course there is the drivel, any sports movie featuring Kevin Costner, for instance, but there is also the sublime.

Rudy.  Yes, Rudy.  It is your favorite sports movie.  It is everybody's favorite sports movie.  Determination, inspiration, tradition...  Don't deny it.  It's your favorite.

      
I would also add Lagaan.  Yes, it is in a different language and has musical dance numbers, but hell, they beat the British in a two day cricket match...  Any movie in which the British lose (AND features colorful dance numbers) is a damn fine movie in my book.

Of late, however, I have discovered a new sports movie, to rival the hallowed position of Rudy.  You probably have seen it, maybe not.  HBO has been showing it every night for about six months.  History, epic scope, social commentary, bloody athletic violence and Matt Damon with his shirt off!  I'm talking about Invictus.

Invictus is the latin for "unconquerable," and relates to Mandela's unconquerable soul as much as South Africa's rise in the 1995 Rugby World Cup.  Historical, passionate, illuminating, suspenseful and inspiring.  It has the legs to overcome and perhaps conquer Rudy for the top spot.


Victory
1 oz French Vermouth
1 oz Italian Vermouth
1/4 oz Lemon Juice
1/4 oz Orange Juice
Dash of Grenadine
Shake over ice and strain into martini glass...

Saturday, May 14, 2011

To Do

Life, as we know, is short.  Seventy-some years if you are lucky, healthy and able to avoid speeding trains.  We live as long as we can, and then it is over.  The key is to live as well as we can for as long as we can.  I don't expect to go soon, but someday I will.  Before I go, though, there are a few simple things I would like to do.

1.  I would like to see the sunrise over the pyramids on the Giza Plateau.


2. I would like to discover a new comet and name it after my daughter.

3. I would like to write and publish a novel, a story of a young boy, raised by wolves, who fights  Sasquatch to the death in an alien cage match.

4. I would like to yell "fire" in a crowded theater, after having actually lit a fire in the crowded theater.  And perhaps after having barred the doors shut.

5. I would like to run naked, outside, in the fresh air, on a Monday morning, through rush hour traffic, with a chain saw.

6. I would like to go bow hunting, in the forrest, for humans.

7. I would like to jump out of a plane, with a stewardess, against her will.

8. I would want to conquer my fear of licking brass handrails in public train stations.

9. And finally, before I leave this world, I would like to take the perfect photo, of a beautiful flower, sticking out of Newt Gingrich's ass, as he gives a nude oil massage to Donald Trump, on Rush Limbaugh's backyard hammock.

Death Wish
1 oz Bacardi 151
1 oz Boodles Gin
1 oz Everclear
1/4 oz Jagermeister
1 tsp Grenadine 
Build in a tall shooter, pour Grenadine in last, over the top.  

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Pad Thai

Sure, you come here looking for a personal dash of wit and repartee.  But then, you show up and see that I've lazily slapped up someone else's grand opus.

Well, yes. Get over it. Watch the whole thing.

This video made me laugh and feel hungry at the same time.

Funny thing is, it's a nice recipe.



Where can I get me one of those knives?

Thai Smile
2 oz Mekhong
1 oz Lemon juice
3/4 oz Simple Syrup
1/4 Pomegranate 
Muddle the pomegranate with the syrup, shake with remaining ingredients and ice, pour into martini glass, garnish with pom seeds...



Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Two Girls, One Lounge

(This little ditty goes right on out to the wonder twins, Carrie and Amanda)

We have a hankerin for more lounge, they say, yet are not willing to submit the smut that drives the engine...

"More Lounge!"

Fine, here I go, back to the salt mine, spinning whimsy and woe for the salaciously-minded.  However, what if our two cougar cubs had actually contributed?  What pray tell would that have looked like??

Hmmm... what could it have looked like?

[cue dreamy music]


This, perhaps.

Or this!


No, really, it was certainly this:

Duck Turd
1/2 oz Butter Shots
1/2 oz Vodka
1/2 oz Irish Cream
add the Irish Cream last to create the effect...

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Doughnuts

Who is the smartest man in the world?

Is it Stephen Hawking?  No, probably not.  Sure he's hell-on-wheels with a wicked robot voice, his own personal black hole theory and a recorded IQ of 160, but no, that ain't gonna do it.



Christopher Langen?  Well, he certainly has the highest recorded IQ in the United States at 195 (He'll tell you 200...), but no, contrary to our collective national delusions of grandeur, we are not the world, and there are others, like Kin Ung Yong of Korea, whose IQ scores redefine the charts...



And yes, before you get all snippity at your poor old sub-genius bartender, I know that IQ is not the only measuring stick or even within the only definition of intelligence. However, for the opening to this, my little literary puppet show, it gets us there...

There are geniuses of the heart and of the mind.  There are geniuses in the arts and in the trades.  For certain, the weary waitress who, upon taking my chicken fried steak order as I left Salem for Portland for good, asked me whether I'd like the sausage gravy "all over everything, hun?" was a culinary savant of the highest order.



And yes, I did in fact want the sausage gravy all over everything...

One thing is for certain, however, when a man tells you, in no uncertain terms, that he, and he alone is indeed the one and only smartest man in the world, then he is, most certainly, and without quest, not.

Which is why, despite the grandiose self-adulating title of his podcast, Greg Proops is most definitely worth listening to.  Yes, the gay one from Whose Line is it Anyway, although, turns out he's not actually gay.  Well, not-gay insofar as he is sexually attracted to women, but apart from that, all bets are off...



And maybe I'm the only one who gets it. Certainly the live-audience laughs are thin (or poorly miked), but his hypnotic staccato of turned phrases and verbal miscues can lead his lemming-like horde of digital disciples down a swirling whirlie ride of post-hip cultural references, obtuse historical musings and the occasional wry 12-year-old-girl-like exclamations...

Smartest? In the world? Well, sadly no, but genius in its own tragically-erudite fashion. And no, I do it no justice.

But this week, in his latest submission from his sojourn in the southern hemisphere, the smartest man in the world took questions from the quick-witted denizens of Melbourne (Melbin for those in the geographic know, as it were) when what to my wondering ears did appear, but a nagging query from a snarky foreign lass which made reference to my very own Portland.  Which was recognized for its fine Stumptown coffee and for with devilishly good VooDoo Doughnuts.

And so, when both the smartest man in the world and nagging Aussie harpies and can agree, it only bears further proof that Portland is the greatest city in the world. (And that, my friend, is no delusion of self-agrandizing grandeur...)

Portland Coffee
2 splashes Triple Sec
1 oz Bacardi 151
1 oz Kahlua
3 dashes Cinnamon
3 dashes Nutmeg (are you ready for the nutmeg??)
1 pinch Sugar

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Meriwether, Osama and Emeralds

This Lounge post is not about Osama.  He's mostly dead.  Let's move on, down tonight's particular rabbit hole..

And, surprisingly, let's start with sugar cubes.


Several dozen, in fact, stacked in racks and rows; tall walls of impenetrable sucrose bricks.  Roman arches, Spanish spires and holy pure-cane crosses, assembled upon sturdy styrofoam prairies.  Whose idea was it, by the way, for Californian fourth graders to build Catholic missions out of sugar?

Why sugar?  Why not plaster of Paris? Dried marshmallows?  Legos?

No, it was sugar cubes.  But not for me.  No. I was not tied to the simplistically sweet masonry of every Californian history project that came before.  The history of the state was too rich, too varied, to repeat yet again, the same tired project.

The state had been settled by native nations, Russian whalers, Spanish conquistadors and Mexican Rancheros.  The Golden state that drew, by the horde, gold-lusting fair-skinned descendants of the Angles and the Saxons, the Irish and the Chinese, is now the seat of global media domination.  It is the fifth largest economy in the world, ahead of entire nations.  The home to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Apple Computer, Disney, Sonoma, five major league baseball teams and Half Dome, is not appropriately, or adequately, represented historically by crunchy little sugar cubes...

In terms of California's historical epicenter, however, nothing compares to the gold rush, which was previously discussed HERE.  Being the precocious history nerd that I was, therefore, I proceeded to construct, with the crafty aid of my mother, a mostly working scale model of a 49er's gold camp, including rocker boxes, long Toms, panning prospectors and nuggets.  Missing, of course were the saloons, card houses and whores...

Skip ahead 14 years, and find me (and my iguana) moving to Oregon, the historical home of the Missoula floods, Meriwether Lewis's winter home, the Fort Stevens "attack" and Big Foot.


Sure, we sit at the end of the conveniently-named Oregon Trail, but essentially, it was a dirt road.  We, as a state, are the end of a long long long dirt road.  Scant pickings, this, for an insatiable history enthusiast such as I, but we get by.

Get by, that is, by reading, researching and listening to others who know, nearly, more than we do about most things.

If you have sat and spoken with me for more than about 10 minutes, anytime in the last three years, you will have likely tuned me out as I was droning on and on and on and on about any one of my current favorite podcasts, many of which revolve around either Skepticism, Astronomy or History.  (Woo!)

Two (three) of the very best podcasts available across the entire podcast spectrum both (all) delve deep into the churning currents of the historical past.  They are The History of Rome with Mike Duncan and Hardcore History with Dan Carlin (AND A History of the World in 100 Objects from BBC Radio 4, although, this one, while spectacular, doesn't count, ).

Mike, of Rome, we learned early on, researched, wrote and recorded from his home in Portland, Oregon, for years, until, for some ridiculous reason, like work or love or something, chose to move to Texas.  Hardcore Dan, however, remained a mystery, declaring his hidden coordinates to be at the end of the Emerald City International Airport, wherever that was...  Seattle, I thought, or maybe Los Angeles.

I was shocked, therefore, to learn today that he was broadcasting (podcasting) from Oregon's own Emerald City of Ducks, cowboys and hippies; Eugene.

Dan and Mike, the two (two of the three of the) most fascinating purveyors of popular history, both sprung from this vapid historical wasteland.  (The BBC show, being from the BBC, naturally, doesn't come from Oregon. Their brilliantly British program dulls my point and runs counter to the artistic aesthetics of this now-obnoxiously-long tome, and therefore will not be discussed...)  (much)  (yet)

(Anyway...)

Dan does an independently-minded centrist political show too, which appeals to my independantly-minded centrist mind, but his history show is the proverbial shit...  He skips around, sucking the marrow from the bones of the epochs, telling the tales of history from street level.

Mike, who is telling us the entire history of Rome, in order, one deadpan inference at a time, on the other hand, is leading a private tour across Rome, Greece and Turkey this week. I will, regrettably, not be joining him.

I'm not going to encourage you to listen to the podcasts.  You can do what you choose to do with your own morning commutes.  Sure they will make you smarter.  They will rouse your intellectual curiosity and allow you to discuss subjects like Alexander, Mithridates, and Diolcetian with an air of authority at cocktail parties.



But really, you stick to Justin Bieber and the morning zoo crew....  I'm sure you'll get a lot out of it.



The Roman Riot
1.5 oz Amaretto
1.5 oz Galliano
1.5 oz Sambuca
Build in a tumbler, no ice...

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Highlander

I'm mostly not gay at all, as I have alleged time and time again.

Although, I have confessed, more than once, to having a bit of a man crush on Ewan McGregor.  If I were to make movies, and had to cast them, I'd try, more often than not, to cast the broad-grinning Scotsman in each endeavor.


He's a wee bit of a star these days, however, and not cheap or easy to cast.  Therefore, until my theoretical filmmaking career merited the requisite A-lister budget, I'd have to go with a cheaper, yet no-less talented, substitute.  And that would be, naturally, Peter Sarsgaard.


Because, really...


These two...



Were separated at birth.

HOWEVER...

Peter Sarsgaard...


Should never never never be confused with Alexander Skarsgard


Now, until such time that I can cast the grinning Scot, and satiate your never-ending McGregor hanker, All I can do is point you to two fantastic Ewan odysseys on DVD. They are not new, and if you have already sampled them, it's a fine time to return to them this summer.  The Long Way Round, and it's sequel, The long Way Down, both follow Ewan and his buddy Charlie as they take the less-traveled route around the globe on nothing but a pair of motorcycles.

Charming, exhilarating and informative, they are worth your time to watch.

And, since I've been gratuitously pandering to the female ramblers, here are a few more actors I'd like to cast...


Flying Scotsman
1oz sweet vermouth
1oz scotch
1/4 tsp simple syrup
dash bitters
-shake with ice