Archive for November, 2010

24, 25, 26 of November, Two Thousand and Ten

Posted in Daily Pictures with tags , , on November 27, 2010 by Verge

Played a show on Wednesday night in Philly. I don't have any pictures of myself on stage yet, so this is a shot of our opening act on stage while I ran the sound.

and the closing band. We played two set in the middle to a crowd of aroudn 150 of our friends. Free draft beer for the bands all night = a great time.

Next day was Thanksgiving at the shore with my family. It's Monika's favorite holiday...she really loves turkey.

drinks are mandatory in our house, and every day is a holiday

the spread before the dinner. We had tofurkey, of course, but everything else was delicious also. It's not really too difficult to do vegetarian Thanksgiving. Most of the food is already vegetarian, if you think about it.

next night we went to Sisters Nightclub for a burlesque show which happened to coincide with the release of the movie.

don't get me wrong, I still love a good strip club outing, but Burlesque is so much more playful, and no one begs you for cash.

we had a great time, did some dancing, got to see some beautiful ladies, and partied till 2 am. tonight, we do it again.

Ten Liquors You’ve Probably Never Tasted

Posted in Good Times, Recipes with tags on November 23, 2010 by Verge

I’m sure you’re all very familiar with the big five: Vodka, Rum, Tequila, Gin and Whiskey.  And I’m sure you’ve even gone down a few paths off the main road:  Kahlua, Rumple Minze, Irish Cream, Scotch (technically still whiskey), and some others.

If you’ve ever had Jagermeister, than you’ve had a drink from the category that includes most of the liquors on this list.  The Digestifs and Apertifs category of liquor includes a wide swash of tastes.  Ranging from bitter and herbal to super sweet fortified wines, they can be drank neat, or used in cocktails.  Much like our culinary finesse, the American Palette fails to appreciate the delicate, and often exotic flavor of these old world recipes.

In a country that used to imbibe Gin like it was going out of style (and invented Bourbon), the America’s palette has swung decidedly in the Vodka direction, a spirit that, by our own definition, must be FLAVORLESS!!  Although I’ve admit I haven’t had them all, I’ve tasted many of them, and they are anything but flavorless, and often unique and unequaled by anything you’ve tasted before.

It’s taken me a bit of time to compile this list, and I’m already on to the next ten Liquors you’ve never tasted.  In any case, I’m releasing the first ten tonight.  First one to get the honors…

Cynar

Cynar is a peculiar drink because one of the 13 flavorings in it is artichoke.  Now don’t get me wrong, I love artichokes to death, but not usually in my cocktail.  But, think of it this way…we do put oranges, lemons, limes, celery, peppers, onions and olives in our drinks, so why not artichokes?  You can mix it with orange juice, but because of it’s low 33 proof alcohol content, I’d recommend a splash of vodka as well.  Or, try this recipe which is a variation of a Negroni.

Benedictine

This 80 proof sweet liquor is made with over 25 different herbs with the exact recipe a closely guarded secret for over 150 years.  It has been made by monks living in France, near Normandy, for over 500 hundreds years, with the lost and rediscovered recipe extant since 1863 of so.  You may have heard of it before as it is the main ingredient in “B & B,” which happens to be a blend of Benedictine and Brandy to make the liquor less sweet.  I would recommend a  Monte-Carlo Cocktail, which is similar to a classic Manhattan, but with this fine liquor in place of the vermouth.

Chartreuse

Also distilled by monks in France, near Grenoble in the Southeast, this liquor is infused with an unprecedented 130 plus herbal extracts.  It comes in two versions, a naturally green version clocking in at 110 proof, from which the color Chartreuse is actually derived, and a yellow version that is a milder and sweeter 80 proof.  It is especially potent and should only be used in moderation for flavor.  I’d rock it in an Emerald Martini if I were me, which I am.

St-Germain

Also lovingly hand made in France, this sweet and syrupy liquor is made primarily of Elderflowers, a close relative of American Honeysuckles.   Indeed, it does have a complex flavor, but is used as just a hint in cocktails due to it’s sweetness and low alcohol content of just 40 proof.  Try a St-Germain G&T to be classy because the bite of the liquor works quite well with the bitterness of the tonic.

Absinthe

Okay, perhaps some of you actually have had Absinthe.  This is perhaps the most well known of all the liquors on this list to Americans, mostly because of its long, and mostly false history.  Everyone knows that absinthe makes you hallucinate, right?  Wrong.  Absinthe does contain an ingredient called Grand Wormwood, which does contain a chemical called Thujone, which has the ability to cause some psychedelic reactions.  However, there is little evidence that there was ever a recipe for Absinthe that contained enough thujone to cause hallucinations.  In fact, it’s practically impossible.

What is indeed probably true is that the Bohemians and artists, Like Ernest Hemingway and Vincent Van Gogh, who professed their love of absinthe we probably hallucinating.  That because they were eccentric alcoholics and probably loved the heroine and cocaine, too!  Absinthe is very strong, also, ranging from 100-140 proof.  It’s meant to be watered down, but if these jokers were drinking it straight, they’d surely be seeing pink elephants.

In any case, Absinthe was banned from being sold in the United States for most of the 20th century, but is now legal to make, consume and buy and sell.  You’ll find it these days, but you’ll still pay a hefty price of 50-90 bucks a bottle.   And be warned, it is a anise based liquor, and although I don’t think it taste like cheap black licorice, if you don’t like black licorice or extremely bitter drinks, you won’t like this.

If you do end up with a bottle, try a Hemingway, named for the writer who reportedly loved this drink.  Just add absinthe to Champagne (we like a 50/50 mix, but that’ll get you some drunk)!

Campari

Colored bright red and hovering around 50 proof, this apertif is bitter and sweet, having derived it’s flavor from herbs and fruits.  It is commonly served as a flavoring for simple soda water, or when combined with gin (and a dash of bitters or two) and vermouth, composes the Negroni Cocktail, which I personal love to devour.  Although still very distinct and likely foreign tasting to an American, the sweetness of this liquor will be more acceptable than others on this list for first time tasters.  Interestingly, it is said that when Campari was originally formulated, the brewer would crush insects and add them to achieve the distinct bright red color.  I assume today they just use regular food die, but I can only guess as this recipe is also top-secret.

To make a Negroni, fill a rocks glass with, well, ice, and fill 1/3 with a quality, neutral flavor gin like Tanqueray and 1/3 sweet red vermouth.  Top with Campari and a few shakes of Bitters.  Serve with a twist (or wedge) of orange.

Pernod

This one can be a bit confusing.  Pernod is not absinthe, but it’s similar.  Further confusing the matter is the fact that Pernod is also the name of the company that produces it and many other spirits.  Even further confusing is that the company is called Pernod-Ricard, and they also make a similar product called Ricard, and they also make a genuine absinthe whose bottle is almost identical to a Pernod bottle, but says absinthe under the name.

It seems that the recipe for this anise based liquor was drafted to replace absinthe which had become banned.  It is drank in the same manner, or just over ice, and will cloud when diluted with water.  While you may have never tried Pernod, it’s likely you’ve tasted some of the company’s other offerings which include:  Absolut, Stolichnaya, Kahlua, Maker’s Mark, Seagrams, Canadian Club, Malibu, Beefeater, Jameson, Glenlivet, Chivas Regal, and Courvoisier, to name just a few.

This one you shouldn’t mess with in cocktails so much.  Add some club soda or tonic water to a bit and enjoy over rocks as an nice after-diner sipping cocktail.

Cinzano

Cinzano is a specific brand of Vermouth, which is classified as a fortified wine.  Unless you drink “real” cocktails like a Manhattan or Gin Martini, or the above mentioned Negroni, you’ve probably never encountered vermouth.  Some vermouth contains wormwood making it common to both this liquor and Absinthe.  Made with another closely guarded recipe, vermouth and cinzano are relatively low in alcohol content around 20 percent, but are essential ingredients in classic cocktail recipes.

A well stocked bar should always have some Rossa (red) and Blanca (white) on hand at all times.  To rock an old school Manhattan, I like my quite basic.  Chill a martini glass for a few moments with ice water.  Dump out the worthless water and dump in some good bourbon, like Maker’s Mark, or Knob Creek.  I’d hit up a good 3 oz.  and to that add two cap-fulls or so of Sweet Vermouth.  Garnish with a maraschino cherry and enjoy with a cigar.  You’re a man, now, or the sexiest lady in the room.

Bitters

Although there are many brands and types of bitters, in drink recipes and at any bar, the word bitters refers specifically to Angosturo Bitters, a brand made in    .  In fact, chances are that your liquor store won’t even carry another brand at all.  I’ve gotten other brands, but only through online purchases.

Bitters are, well…bitter, due to the fact that there is no sugar or sweeteners added to them.  They are very herbally, and viscous and potent.  Merely one or two drops in a cocktail will flavor it correctly, and 10 drops will ruin it.  Because of their potency, they usually come in small bottles similar to a hot sauce sized bottle.  They are also sometimes called “aromatic” bitters because of their strong, but very pleasant odor.

Bitters are high in alcohol coming in around 80-90 proof.  However, because only a small amount is used at a time, the alcohol is negligible.  In fact, in most countries it’s not even really considered an alcoholic beverage because if underage kids wanted to drink a bottle of this to catch a buzz, they would find it nearly impossible because the strength of the bitterness will choke you if you try to gulp some.

Another famous brand is Peychaud’s, hailing from New Orleans and being an essential ingredient in the Sazerac.  You can score these all over Louisiana, but making one at home takes a little more skill:

fill one glass with cubed ice and fill with water to chill.  In a second glass, muddle one sugar cube with 5 dashes of Peychaud’s Bitters.  Once combined, add 2-3 oz of rye whiskey and stir to mix.  Empty the first glass, add a cap-full of absinthe, swirl to coat all the sides, and discard (although you can choose to leave the excess absinthe in).  Add the rye mixture to the absinthe-coated glass and serve with a twist of lemon.

Cachaca

Cachaca is what you drink non-stop in Brazil.  It sort of like Rum in the same way Mezcal and Tequila are the same, or Scotch and Bourbon are the same.  Same families, different spirits.  Whereas Rum is made from the molasses derived from refining sugar cane, Cachaca skips the extra steps and derives its alcohol directly from sugar cane sugars itself.

Cachaca is not super popular or even known outside of Brazil, but my local liquor store does carry one brand, pictured above, that is impossibly hidden on the bottom shelf and is dusty.  To put things in perspective, the entire world consumes 15 Million Liters a year; Brazil consumes 1.5 Billion Liters.  They seem to really like this shit.

In any case, the quintessential cocktail made with Cachaca is the Caipirnha.  In fact, it is the national drink of Brazil (the United States doesn’t have one, but Bourbon would have to be the de facto national beverage).  You can whip one of these up quite simply.  It’s like a Mojito, basically, but leave out the mint leaves and soda.  Muddle some sugar with some generous fresh lime juice, add the Cachaca and serve on the rocks.  Great summertime drink, during the day or at a Brazillian night club.

November, Two Thousand and Ten

Posted in Daily Pictures on November 19, 2010 by Verge

Cleaning out my phone…here are some random photos from the last month of my life.

Italian Vacation 2010, Day 7

Posted in Daily Pictures on November 16, 2010 by Verge

Not that I don’t love everyone in Monika’s family, because I do, but the final day of our vacation to Italy we got to spend alone in Rome.  There’s a lot to cover in Rome, so honestly I think it’s better to do it in small groups anyway, that way you get to see everything you want to see.

Here is the obviously obligatory shot of the Coliseum. This is where our shuttle dropped us off just before noon. We had until 10 o'clock to see everything we wanted to see. This was pretty high on the list, so it's nice that it's so big, you really can't miss it.

this isn't just a dirt field. well, actually, it is just a dirt field, but the Italians like to call it the Circus Maximus which roughly translates to "dirt oval field where guys in chariots raced in circles and some dude from Ben Hur got killed for real." Pretty cool, huh, a little piece of Hollywood, right here in Rome!

Me and Botgirl inside the big, stone stadium thingy. It wasn't crowded at all and it really was a beautiful summer day. Even though there was a huge line, we got to walk right in cause we roll like that (and we bought advanced tickets).

Here is a video of the interior.  The Romans, over two thousand years ago, had this shit figured out.  You don’t really need a map at all because the layout is exactly the same as every damn stadium and arena you’ve ever been in.  Seriously, they’ve not improved upon the design in over 2000 years!  You can see the stage and renovations on the floor at about :40 because they sometimes hold concerts here now, mostly for dvds and specials, but pretty damn cool anyway.

In Rome (and really, probably anywhere in Europe) you can drink right on the streets. they sell beers at every food vending cart and I took advantage. throwing caution to the wind, and with no idea when the next time I would see a bathroom, I slammed a can of Peroni while strolling around on the Apian Way.

It is amazing that this building/church, The Pantheon, is in such amazing condition since it was built nearly 2 millenia ago. But, I guess they maintain it, which is why you see it's half shrouded in scaffolding.

It's clear that inside has gone through periods of neglect and restoration, and I know that what I see now is probably nothing like what an ancient roman would have seen. Nevertheless, it is amazing that culture has preserved this place for so many years.

In Italy, and most of Europe at his point, Absinthe is pretty common and not all that unusual. They even have a pretty good selection, unlike the States, where you pay an arm and a leg for a shitty bottle for no good reason except that people think it's exotic. In any case, here, I drooled for a minute, but we couldn't stop to drink...we had things to see.

This is the Vatican. It took us half the day to make it this far. Oddly enough, it was pretty crowded, you could take pictures, and it was pretty noisy as well. I guess they just gave up on pretending it's a church and all.

Everything, again, was either marble, granite, or gold. No expense was spared, especially since they didn't have to pay for any of it. To tell you the truth, most of it was probably stolen from other churches that they then burned to the ground. Damn blasphemers.

the thought of it made me want to drink. We had dinner in an cafe and then hung out in the piazza next to it before heading off to the Spanish Steps.

Then we found a bar to relax in and just enjoy being in Rome, knowing we didn't have to drive for hours to another city tonight. We could just relax for a minute. This was an Irish Pub, but hey, they had Guiness, so I wasn't complaining.

In the morning, our hotel had an amazing breakfast spread. We packed up the car and headed out to the airport to say good bye to Italy once again.

Once again, since we ordered vegetarian meals on the plane, we got ours served before everyone else on the plane, had better, warmer food than the rest of them, and scored some drinks.

The cats were happy to finally see us again. They were probably getting to the point of forgetting we even existed, but they seemed to remember us all right. We had every reason to be tired and we slept well that night.

Some things I learned in Italy:  When you rent a car, pay the extra money for GPS.  The bedbug scare is way overblown.  We stayed at 7 different hotels, and never once was there any sign of bedbugs anywhere (and  trust me, I checked well).  People generally don’t get mad when you speak English.  They get happy.  You’re a tourist, you’re probably going to be giving them money, and they seem to like that just fine.  Having an international phone is handy for drunk calling your friends back home, but not much else.  If you’re vegetarian, you will eat quite well.   Italy isn’t a big as you might think.  If you want to get somewhere, you can, so if you ever visit, make a list of all the Italian cities you’ve ever dreamed of seeing, and get there.  It’s not as far as you imagined!

See all the pictures from Rome over here.

Italian Vacation 2010, Day 6

Posted in Vacations with tags on November 11, 2010 by Verge

We spent the night just outside of Tivoli at a pretty decent joint.  Since we were outside of the city, there were little places to eat without driving, so we ate at the restaurant hotel.  They had a little bar off the lobby where there was wifi reception, so we had some drinks there while Gisela watched the Phillies game on her laptop.

The next morning, we checked out and headed to Hadrian’s Villa (or Villa Adriana, I’m still not sure why languages like to translate proper nouns.  It baffles me.  I practically didn’t even know Venezia was actually Venice!).

This complex of buildings was Hadrian's vacation house from Rome. It was built almost 2000 years ago, and is now just ruins, mostly unexcavated. This is a swimming pool.

When we got there, we had no idea the scale of the site. We all assumed it would be a few building foundations, a few columns here and there. It was huge, with a more amazing site quite literally around every turn. It was so expansive, it was very easy to get lost.

This is one of two huge reflecting pools. It was originally lined with columns and statues. I'm not talking a few. I mean hundreds. Everything was once covered with marble or mosaics, some of which you can still see. Even the ground was all marble mosaics...everywhere. If it was still in it's original condition, it would be one of the grandest estates in the world, without question.

Here is a video I took from one of the courtyards.

We spent a good 3 hours there, and I took a ton of pictures which you can see over here on Facebook.  Then we headed to the city center to grab some lunch.

We had lunch right on the street outside a small cafe/bar. There was an open-air market behind us and we could hear the music while we ate. Monika and I wanted to stay and explore the city some more because it looked pretty cool, but we had places to go, so off we went.

We stopped at what is called the Apian Way, a kind of turnpike that was built by the Romans and can still be seen in places that haven’t been developed or paved over.  Near that was a cathedral under which there were catacombs.  They were not the first underground burial sites, but they were the first to be called catacombs, and it was centuries later that the word began to be applied to all underground cemeteries.  Of course, no pictures in there, but it was pretty damn interesting and fun.

It was a fine day, and Monika and I were excited because we knew tomorrow, our last full day in Italy, we were finally going to Rome.

Italian Vacation 2010, Day 5

Posted in Vacations with tags on November 10, 2010 by Verge

Monika’s parents wanted to go to a historical site and thought we might not be interested since we weren’t really all read up on the Etruscan ruins that they were interested in.  Instead of going with them, we headed to Sienna.

Monika and Maya goofing around at the rest stop. This place was packed, and they sold cheap wine, too. I picked up four bottles of red wine for like 10 bucks. Granted, it wasn't the best wine around, but it was local, and it did have alcohol in it.

There is a church here that is named after some chick who apparently was a saint. I guess they really loved her. They have her finger cut off and on display. It looks like a brown crayon after a dog chewed it up. What's even more bizarre is the fact that they also have her entire head, in a box, also on display. Since I couldn't take any pictures of her head, You get this, the fabulous view from outside the church.

The four of us stopped for lunch at the center piazza. It was very wide open with cafes all around the edges, which is pretty typical in Italy. Lunch was great, and so was the beer. We took our time. It was nice to be around so many people just hanging out, relaxing and enjoying the summer like weather.

Here’s a one minute video of how beautiful it was.  You can see Gisela at the very end waving her arms at me.

I guess I could have asked strangers to take pictures of us, but I honestly don't mind the cheesy self portraits at all. I think it's kinda cute.

Lunch with the Shanfeld sisters. I ordered a Negroni which are pretty typical drinks in Italy. She brought me a brown drink. I tried to send it back, and she told me it was what I ordered. It wasn't. It was a rum and coke, which we got compliments once the bartender realized his mistake. I got my Negroni, too, and it was delicious.

 

After lunch, we had gelato. It was the same price per cone no matter what flavor you wanted. Consequently, we ordered macadamia nut and shared a cone.

Go see the rest of the pix over here!

Italian Vacation 2010, Day 4

Posted in Daily Pictures, Vacations with tags on November 9, 2010 by Verge

We packed up in Bologna, and hit the road towards Venice, which is about 3 hours northeast. When we got to the dock, the boat to take us to Venice was still half an our away.

Let's drink! Seriously, though, when I opened my suitcase to get out the bottle of wine and beer I had stowed, I discovered that the bottle of beer had leaked, making most of my shirts smell more like beer than the regular whiskey smell. Not big deal. Aired them out later. Drank beer immediately.

Venice has no roads with cars, only canals. We sung "I'm on a Boat" all the way to the dock.

This is the center of Venice, St. Marks Square. An amazing church that I only wish I could share photos of. And lots of open air cafes and tourists, to be honest.

This is a glimpse into the extensiveness of the interior. Every surface is marble, or gold, or granite. In every style. This shows the diversity of the columns on the front corner of the church.

We went a bit off the beaten path to grab lunch at a small cafe. The paninis were great....

...and so were the drinks.

This is like the South Street of Venice. I guess it's a bit touristy, and there's no doubt about that, but it's still beautiful anyway, and I love crowds.

But we found a borderline Steampunk Bar, and Monika and I enjoyed some delicious cocktails and free sushi!

I think the touristy thing settles down, and the vendors go home at night, but....

we headed back to Bologna, where we met this guy, who apparently exchanged free drinks at the hotel bar for the opportunity to put his arms around young, American girls.

As always, check the entire photo gallery of day four here.

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