Wednesday, May 05, 2010

A Guide To Licorice Liquor

Well, no pictures today from Bar Tabac, but I shall pass on a bit of knowledge, or opinion.  I like licorice, so I also like licorice flavored liquors.  Sambuca, a bit too sweet for me these days, and that goes double for Anisette.  Strega, ah, great step up from Sambuca.  Then we move to Ouzo, Pernod, Riard and Arak.  Of course there is always Galliano of the old Harvey Wallbangers fame, belongs there up a step below, or maybe above, Sambuca.  And, then, the often overlooked Herbsaint, developed after Absinthe was outlawed, much like Pernod, but Pernod actually made Absinthe, and still around today (that is Herbsaint that is still around today, my last sentence was a bit convoluted, even by my standards).

Anyway, after having a bit to drink today, Ricard being predominate but also including most of a bottle of Sancere and a wee bit of Champagne (and a glass of whatever the woman sitting next to me left behind), I have decided to present you with my guide to drinking licorice flavored drinks.

To be avoided at all costs unless given to you by someone "connected."  In that case it will be high-proof and made from 100% alcohol stolen from a tanker shipping it from a  Midwestern brewery to a wine company on the West Coast that makes fortified wines (that tanker somehow getting rerouted to Boston).  If the latter, drink it straight up or use it to "sweeten" your espression, er, I mean your espresso (both, probably).  And you didn't here this from me.

See above, but can be consumed if nothing else is available and you are desperate.  Do not pay extra for "Black Espresso."  It isn't worth it and only stains your teeth.  This may not hold if you are actually in Spain, Italy, or Portugual.

Italian for "Witch."  A big step up from either Anisette or Sambuca.  Still sweet, but strong enough to make up for it.  Plus, any Italian restaurant that has Strega is, in my opinion, probably a good restaurant.  Only the good ones even know about it.

Over-priced and nothing taste-wise you can't find somewhere in the following list.

The Following List:
Ouzo, Pernod, Riard and Arak should be drunk, in my opinion, one of three ways.  Staight (think Root Boy Slim and Boogie 'Till You Puke), in a glass with an ice-cube and a spash of water, or, and one of the best, one part of the alcohol, five parts water and a couple of ice-cubes in a tall glass.  Absolutely refreshing.  Also, and try mixing with orange juice, a favorite of mine but not to everyone's liking.  I think it tastes like those little pumpkin candies you used to get on Halloween.  Back when little kids could actually go door-to-door and accept candy from strangers.

Ah, remember those old days when you could read comics at the drug store and buy everything you needed to make gunpowder as well.  Try going to CVS or RiteAid and picking up a couple of ounces of sulfer and saltpeter today.  We used to be able to shoot marbles a full-block, eh, but that is another story for another time.

And, one cannot forget Absinthe, newly legal in the United States, but drunk by yours truly in many a foreign country before then. Staight (not highly recommended), with an ice-cube and a splash, or with ice-water dripped over a sugar cube (probably the best, but I wouldn't make an issue of it).

In my opinion, of all those available. in the United States today, Pernod is far and away the best.  Pernod was, if not the first, one of the original makers of Absinthe.  When it was banned (wrongly, because of the wormwood), Pernod altered the recipe a bit and lowered the alcohol content (the real culprit).  Now that it is legal again Pernod has reconstructed their recipe to as close as possible to the original and upped the alcohol content back to a respectable 134 proof.

Cinco de Mayo and Pinatas

Being somewhat of a contrarian, and trying to avoid a crowd, I lilke to go to Bar Tabac, a French bistro, to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.  And, the Mysterious Chinese Woman wanted me to know that the pinatas, of which you may see a lot today, probably had their origin in, this will be hard to guess, China.

At least as far back as the 13th century, the Chinese had a game whereby large paper dolls in animal shapes were stuffed with seeds and then smashed to bits by partygoers.  The paper remnants were then burned and the ashes kept for good luck.

Explorer Marco Polo saw this game during his travels to China and brought the idea back to Italy, where the object was called a pignatta - or "little pot" - and became popular with the Renaissance nobility. Instead of paper and seeds, small clay vessels were filled with trinkets and other pricier gifts, then batted at during pre-Lenten celebrations. Larger, colorful pignattas filled with candies were hung in town squares and smashed open for children during the carnival festivities.

The route from Italy to Spain brought small changes to the custom, which then made its way across the Atlantic to Mexico with Spanish missionaries.
In Mexico, the Spanish pinatas were used as a tool of religious conversion, as the hanging pot was meant to represent sin, and those who destroyed it represented good vanquishing evil. Pinatas were readily accepted in Mexico because a similar Aztec ceremony honoring Huitzilopotchli, the god of war, already existed there.

So there you have it.  Of course according to the Mysterious Chinese Woman, everything had its origin in China.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Left Handed Playing Cards

As many of you know, I am left-handed and, according to the Mysterious Chinese Woman, possibly an alien.  And not from Mexico.  She is thinking someplace a bit further away.

Now I have often maintained that the left-handed are, if not more intelligent than right-handers, more adaptable.  As a case in point, I can easily sit down at a right-hander's PC and use their mouse without thinking about it.  However, I have watched right-hander's struggle for hours trying to get comfortable using my mouse that is set up for a left-hander.

Here is a little experiment you can do.  Most people don't realize that playing-cards are designed for right-handers.  Don't believe me?  Take a close look.  Right-handers naturally hold their cards in their left hand and then use their right hand to fan them.  Easy to see the numbers and suits when you do that, Right?

Now hold the cards in your right-hand and fan them with your left-hand.  Hah!!  You can only see the number and suit of the first card.

Okay, here is my point.  Left-handers have no problem with this because they can adapt and hold the cards in their left hand just like right-handers.  But, see if you can get a deck of cards for left-handers, and not the ones that have the numbers and suits in all four corners but just in the opposite corners.  Now slip it into a card game and watch the perplexed looks on everyone's face when they can't figure out what their cards are.  And then watch them struggle to figure out what to do.

Left-hander's are not just more adabtable, we also have a weider sense of humor.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Cask Festival At The Brazen Head - Day Three

Another nice day on Sunday so another fairly small crowd at The Brazen Head.  A bit unfortunate because new casks don't come out until the old ones are gone.  As a result there were only two beers available that I hadn't already tried.

I started out with a Pearl Street Saber's Edge Imperial IPA.  This is a double IPA which, I guess, means that it has a lot of hops.  A nice coppery color, but way bitter.  It is a hefty 8% ABV and not a beer that I would drink a lot of.  I was glad I was just drinking half pints.

My next one was a Defiant Porter, a dark, fairly heavy brew with the now common hint of coffee.  A bit hoppy, but nothing overpowering.

I still had tickets left and I had enough of the heavy beers so I finished up with a pint of the Michigan Celis White to clear the old palate.

Now that should have been my day, but oh no, not me.  Someone took an interest in the pictures in the background at Cody's Ale House and wanted to know if Gaid had a website.  Now I knew I had one Gaid's cards someplace but, of course, couldn't find it.  This meant I had, simply had, to go to Pete's Waterfront Ale House  to see if I could get the information.  And, you can't go to Pete's without getting a drink, or two, or three.

But, I did get the information, kind of.  It turns out Gaid doesn't have a website but does have a telephone number.  I guess he isn't a complete dinosaur.

Old Time Photographs - (917) 245-5523

Or, you can stop into Pete's Waterfront Ale House on a Friday or a Saturday afternoon, when Gaid usually works, and ask to see his portfolio.  Tell him Bar Man sent you, I might get a free beer out of it.  Or you might and I will have to pay double.  Gaid can be funny that way.

I was minding my own business drinking Margaritas at the bar and talking to a guy named Vinnie about the old days in the neighborhood when in walks the Mysterious Chinese Woman.  She had returned from visiting her mother and tracked me down like a dog.  And she was hungry.

We got ourselves a table where she had chicken fingers and I opted for the softshell crab sandwich again.

Finger's Lookin' Good

A Crab With His Crab

What A Cute Little Fellow

Things were pretty much under control at this point but then...  They have had the Pernod Absinthe here for awhile and so far I have resisted the temptation to try it.  But the fellow at the table next to us ordered one and, well, I figured as long as the waitress schlepped the whole intricate serving device all the way from the bar I would make it worth her while by having one myself.

Ice-Water Over Sugar Cube Into Absinthe

A Close-Up

I got a picture with the waitress and you can see the veneration with which I am held around here.  I am not sure if that sentence was grammatically correct.  I think I meant You can see how I am venerated around here.

I Get No Respect

And now I am ready to meet the Green Fairy.

Tinkerbell, Here I Come

Ah, nothing like a blast of 136 proof green stuff to get you looking at the world a bit differently.

Smooth, And Refreshing

I am bringing a bottle of this to the Minnesota Fishing Opener in a couple of weeks.  Must remember to buy sugar cubes, but I think we will use a simpler device to pour the ice-water.

Just a reminder, this weekend the Cask Festival shifts to dba Brooklyn in Williamsburg.


I am going to try to get there Friday so if you go, look for me and say hello.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Cask Festival At The Brazen Head - Day Two

Got off to a bit of a later start yesterday and meandered over to The Brazen Head around 2:30 PM.  Although there was a good crowd, it wasn't as packed as I expected it to be.  I suspect the beautiful weather, high of 85 and bright sunshine, after several weeks it being windy, chilly and damp was part of the reason.  The beaches and parks were really crowded so just the die-hard cask-heads were holed up inside.  The Brazen Head does have a nice little outdoor area, though.

I showed up alone but was soon joined by the Mysterious Chinese Woman and her brother Jim.

The Happy Crew

I was glad to see that The Nazz was still playing, er, I mean pouring, so that was my first beer of the day.  And no, there won't be any long discourses today.  I am off the mushrooms.

At an ABV of 10% it had a kick to it, but nothing like the Belgian Quadruple that I had yesterday.  It was smooth and a bit hoppy, but not overpoweringly so.  The malt came through as well as a burnt coffee flavor with a hint of caramel.  Very good, indeed.

Alex was here again to provide information about the offerings.  He really knows his stuff so you know he loves his job.

Ask And Ye Shall Know

I moved on to the East End Black Strap Stout, and black it was.  It looked pretty potent but at an ABV of 6.2% it wasn't overpowering.  It is brewed with blackstrap molasses and  brown sugar and had a distinctive coffee taste.  This would be a great beer to have first thing in the morning before heading out to work.  Particularly if your work involves heavy machinery  No! No!  Scratch that last one.  I can already see a potential lawsuit from someone who followed my advice and injured themselves.

Jim was drinking who knows what.  but was certainly enjoying whatever it was.

It Is All Good

My next beer was a Clipper City Peg Leg.  A fairly strong 8% ABV and another black one.  It must have been my day for beers that had a hint of coffee to them, this one mixed with a bit of caramel or toffee and more molasses.  And yes, I did use a clean glass with every beer.

Enjoying The Day

Alex had some help today and despite what it says on his glass, his name is Ron, not Karl.

Alex And Ron

Now, no offense to Ron, but I liked his other helper a bit better.

It Was Her Personality

Her name wasn't Karl either, it was Lauren.  I have no idea who Karl is or how he lost his glass.  Well, that isn't right, I can figure out how you might lose your glass in this kind of an environment.

Pizzeria Uno, a chain of pizza places, actually has a brewpub in their Metuchen, New Jersey restaurant and I had their Pale Bock, a hefty 7.2% ABV but quite good.  Finally a beer that was kind of a pale gold.  Smooth and malty but the alcohol did come through.  There was a bit of an herb (no, not that kind of herb) flavor to it.  Maybe some of the oregano from the pizzas permeates the brew.

Pretty Things of Fluffy White Rabbits fame had a St. Botolph's Town as well this time around.  Milder than the Fluffy White Rabbits, an ABV of 5.7% versus the Rabbits ABV of 8.5%.  It initially had a sweet malty taste to it but a bit of a secondary bite.

My next one was a Shawnee V.S.O.P.  The tasting notes said this was a very rare beer brewed with honey and aged in mature apple brandy barrels.  It was a robust 8.3% ABV and, to me, had a distinctive strawberry or raspberry jam taste.  Quite good.  Pair this with the East End Black Strap Stout and a piece of toast and you have what may be the ideal breakfast.

My last one, recommended by Alex, was another rare one, Kuhnhenn Anneliese Amber.  Not overly strong at an ABV of 5.8%.  Now maybe it was because I had just had the fairly sweet and fruity V.S.O.P., but this one tasted a bit sour and musty.  Not off-putting though, reminiscent of those Belgian beers that are naturally fermented.

I plan on heading back today for another round of tastings so I had enough beer for today.  Enough beer, but not enough to drink.  We headed off in search of another bar and were going to stop in at Henry Public, a relatively new place that I hadn't visited before.

Not Recommended

I can't say anything too bad about this place because we didn't stay.  Why?  Well the front was pretty full, no room at the bar and all of the tables were full as well except for small ones that wouldn't comfortably seat the three of us.

The Strollers Should Have Been A Warning

The back room was completely empty though so we asked if we could sit there.  We were told only if we were having dinner, this despite the fact that it was a bit early and there wasn't anybody eating.  Now how silly is this, you have an empty room and three people who want to buy drinks but you won't seat them.  Who knows, if we had a few drinks we might even have been inclined to stay and order dinner a bit later.  Suffice it to say I won't be rushing back here anytime soon.

We headed over to Cody's Ale House where they had no problems letting us sit at a table for a few drinks.

Highly Recommended

Comfortably Seated

Those pictures in the background are for sale and the guy selling them is Gaid, the world's friendliest bartender who works at Pete's Waterfront Ale House but does most of his drinking here.  Now Gaid is old, well, not as as me, but not old enough to have taken the pictures.  He gets the plates or negatives and then does the enlargements and touch-ups.  He has a whole portfolio of interesting pictures of old New York.  I have a couple of nice ones of Coney Island back in the good-old-days.

On our way over to Cody's we passed pile of books that were being thrown out so, scavenger that I am, I picked up a few.  The fat one on top is Sartre's "Being and Nothingness" that I will probably never read, but carrying it around makes me look intellectual.  One of the books was a beautifully illustrated cookbook, "The Heiritage Of French Cooking."  That one will get some use.  Another one was "Favorite Recipes of American Home Economics Teachers Meats Edition (including seafood and poultry)."  Hey, any cookbook that has almost nine pages of meat loaf recipies can't be all bad.  How can Bacon Meat Loaf with Olive Stuffing not be good?  Not so sure about the Creamed Brains in Nests of Mashed Potatoes, though.

Okay, just a bit after 1:00 P.M. and time for me to take a quick shower and then head out to another session at The Brazen Head.  A Bar Man's work is never done.