Your Bar and You

January 27, 2010

Every tee-partialing household has, or should have, a bar. Yours probably does, if we take “bar” to mean a stock of liquor that exists on a “going concern” basis (as opposed to one-off stocks for large parties). But your bar isn’t much, is it? You don’t feel any special sense of proprietorship over it. It doesn’t say anything about who you are or what type of social space your apartment is. But sometimes, after you’ve visited my bar, you wish it did. How can you make that happen? You’ve tried wandering the aisles of the liquor store, but it’s all so bewildering, and you end up spending more money than you wanted to on a haphazard selection that sends you reproving vibes as it sits unconsumed on your shelf, like some stray animal “adopted” by an enthusiastic but irresponsible child. Is there nothing to be done?

The key to building a great bar is the same as it is for any collection, be it of books, movies, autographs, or whatever. You must define the collection’s domain, and you must do so according to (1) your interests, and (2) your budget. A paleoichthyologist friend of mine once won a book-collecting contest with his collection “Man and Fish.” Of course it had Moby Dick and The Old Man and the Sea, but it also had fishing manuals, treatises on the importance of fishery to American culture, and suchlike. The collection wasn’t worth very much money (I’d guess a few hundred dollars), and most of the books were, if not common, then not particularly rare. Nonetheless it was a remarkable collection. Beholding it, one’s sense of the importance of fish to man was immediately expanded, not indefinitely into vaporous musings, but along the lines that my friend’s own wholehearted engagement with the man/fish question suggested. The collection was an appendage of his personality, an expression of his identity in a new medium. Of course collectors with deep pockets might build much more comprehensive collections, perhaps about about man and the sea in general, but that was beyond my friend’s personal interests anyhow. When you start thinking about building your bar, think “Man and Fish.”

Now, how can we translate the “Man and Fish” principle to liquor collecting? The place to begin is with your interests. What are your favorite cocktails? What are the cocktails you are so attached to that you shake your head ruefully when you discover that a friend doesn’t like them? Those cocktails will form the nucleus of your bar. Let’s say that you love the Manhattan. Start by buying one to three bottles of the main spirit, which can be either rye or bourbon. (I highly recommend Rittenhouse rye, which sells for about $17/750ml and is the best rye I’ve ever had). Next you’ll need some sweet (red) vermouth. Vermouth is a very misunderstood drink: many bars feature a large bottle of Martini and Rossi that sits out for years and years, being slowly depleted. But since you love the Manhattan, you’ll do some research and discover two things: (1) there are brands of vermouth that taste much better than the ubiquitous Martini and Rossi (try Noilly Prat), and (2) vermouth should be refrigerated and consumed within a few months. Finally, you will need some angostura bitters, which is a no-brainer since there’s only one brand. And of course you’ll need a metal shaker, a strainer, and some glassware, but that sort of goes without saying. Now, already, you’re at the point where your friends will say, “Daaamn! Now I know where to go if I want a top-notch Manhattan! Party at YOUR house!” Read the rest of this entry »

Tomorrow’s Salad—Today!

January 24, 2010

We’ve had a flurry of activity these last few weeks, and I’m excited to report that there’s more to come. Mr. Dale Pickle has joined us to write about politics, mixology, and sometimes both at once, and at least two more new writers are on the way. We’ll still post on a wide variety of topics, but hopefully you’ll find that there’s a bit more coherence. Or: that our incoherence is even more entertaining now than it was before.

So as we welcome new writers, now seems like a good time to look back at the debuts of some of our older writers.

First, Ibiteyoureyes, who offered several theories as to our blog’s soul.

1) Yesterday’s Salad is a support group for disgruntled carnivores. Think about this. Why, today, is there still salad left over? Because all we did yesterday was eat meat, meat, animal, and more meat (the difference between meat and animal is that animal is still alive). And so, this blog just might be a means of support to all of those, bloggers and blog readers alike, dealing with the repercussive guilt of not utilizing our flatter, squarer teeth. Personally, I say to hell with these teeth. I delight in envisioning a uneaten, wilting salad weeping before me on the kitchen table. In fact, let it wilt and weep on the floor. The cat won’t eat it. No one will. Salad does not belong to today – which is the day of sandwiches, sandwiches made out of meat and animal (there’s a post all on it’s own, How to Eat an Animal Sandwich While Said Animal is Not Yet Dead). The salad, we will deal with tomorrow, once we have gloried in meat. So that’s theory number one. It’s wrong. (Full post)

And Rabbi Dr. Professor Jurgen Haverstam, DHL, who looked at the Yesterday in Yesterday’s Salad:

Men of science have fallen victim recently to some rather dippy conjecture. There is a gentleman at Harvard, one Homi Bambam I am told, who is very much the man in form. Allow me to narrate a story that has yet to be told using reason free from passion. We, I mean I, shall show how a solid grounding in the sources and the science of historical inquiry always anticipates and trumps the new.

There is an beverage, popular among men of breeding and character, that I wish humbly to submit to the annals of yesterday’s salad. An Old Fashioned you say? Ha! But surely you, I mean we, jest. Sadly, the New Salad Order has cast this important beverage to the dustbin of history. Let these dry bones live!

Zodiac: Beyond genre

January 11, 2008

Perhaps the most terrible part of upholding the toga of the Ciceronian is that one must constantly change ones style, ones topic, and ones very identity, to constantly re-fold oneself into the very salad. I’ve promised the CDS that I would cover Zodiac and so I must, the Ciceronian must always keep his word, excepting when the Catalinarian comes near.

The Zodiac in some sense seems to defy genres. It is not a gory, slasher, revel in the violence serial killer movie of the Se7en/Saw variety. It is not a chilling look at the psyche of serial killers, like Silence of the Lambs. It is also not a revisionist argument for Arthur Leigh Allen, as the Zodiac. It is one of the better movies of the year, but its not great. The realism, the very thing that makes it good, is also what in the end sort of drags it down.

Zodiac begins with upfront, unadorned murders which seem rather wholly unconnected to the rest of the plot. The letters set the movie off, introducing the journalists and an attack upon a cabbie, introduces the excellent Mark Ruffalo, as a police detective. The plot is media-focused, but avidly avoiding the very celebrity hype aspect from which these movies arise. There is a brilliant scene where Gyllenhaal and Ruffalo are at the premier of Dirty Harry together and Ruffalo walks out disgusted by this wet dream cop fantasy. There are also some lovely depictions of police bureaucracy. Ruffalo has to call back and forth to coordinate between three districts to accomplish anything. Its half journalism, half police work and all masculinity. The women in this movie are victims, either actual or psychological of the Zodiac, or sidelined wives who cannot understand the overtly masculine domain which is the pursuit of the Zodiac.

While I’ve glossed over much of the movie, I think the most substantial piece of the movie is the obsessiveness with the pursuit. Paul Avery loses his job, to be replaced by The Jewish Actor, and moves to a boat, because of he no longer can report on crime, just things that may be connected to the Zodiac. Ruffalo’s police inspector wanders across county lines and accusations, hopeless, but refusing to end his search. Gyllenhaal’s character jumps from random clue, to random clue, in an almost entirely unconvincing manner arriving at Leigh as the killer. In the end, the movie becomes more about those who chase the serial killer than the serial killer himself.

I spent some time with an old friend on New Year’s (Rockin!) Eve who I hadn’t seen in too long. His name is Halfabottle Ascotch and he sometimes wears a Ginger Ale hat. To make matters even better, my girlfriend really hit it off with his twin brother, Otha Halfabottle (who on that night was wearing a taller Ginger Ale hat). To top all this off (with Ginger Ale!) the party we attended was also a lot of fun.

So fun, in fact, that I…socialized. Halfabottle always seems to bring the party out of me. He’s a swell guy. So swell, (in fact!), that when you wake up the next day and he’s gone all you can do is clutch your head and moan and groan and poop.

Sometime during the socialization (of medicine!), another happy partygoner asked me what to him probably represented a very simple question. He asked what kind of music I liked.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. It is a simple question! But here’s the problem…

Read the rest of this entry »

Despite many years of periodic, late-night dessert binges, I’ve yet to hit rock bottom. So from locations far and wide, from the Upper West Side, to the glamorous Gold Coast, and all the way to Shibuya, you can find me rushing about at odd hours, with little more than a pint of ice cream in hand, a spoon, and a plan.

Over the years, I’ve toned down just how much candy I can polish off in a midnight dash, but it requires constant, conscious effort to do so, and the gains remain limited. A few weeks back, as my girlfriend and I were watching the end of the “Darjeeling Limited,” I noticed that I had been quite temperate with the gummy bears that I had been snacking on throughout the film. In fact, I was so happy about it, that I was beginning to think about what other, more diabolical treats I could reward myself with after the film. As the credits started to roll, my girlfriend asked for some gummy bears, and I said, “sure, I’ve only had a handful.” When the lights went up, revealing an empty plastic box on the arm of my seat, she blurted out, “honey, those were our weekend gummy bears!” I had consumed a pound and a half of candy in one Wes Anderson film. Given that Noah Baumbach has some films pending, I was doubly scared.

However, finding myself at loose ends this evening, and coming off of a week of post-thanksgiving double-workouts, I geared up for a late-night run to the Division street Jewel. Rushing into the frozen foods aisle with manic intensity, I came to a sudden halt between two mutually appealing items. The situation should be familiar to any considerate glutton: not wanting to deal with buyer’s remorse on top of the inevitable post-binge guilt (I really couldn’t spare the calories, and why didn’t I at least waste them on the chocolate? Damn you, cognitive-dissonance reduction!), I had to make sure that I made the right choice between a pint of soy ice-cream and a small (very small) Sara Lee cheesecake. At least, that’s how we’re choosing to remember it.

In truth, the cheesecake was never really in the running. Although in comparison to other cheesecakes, it was fairly low in fat (of which saturates), and it was certainly tastier than the soy ice cream (an acquired taste, if ever there was one), by dint of genetics, it would have also necessitated a few handfuls of lactase pills. Yet the promise of cheesecake lived on, and I stood there, Narcissus-like, pondering the reflection of the cheesecake in the refrigerator window.

This continued until the crow flew by me. Apart from the occasional seeing-eye dog, Division street is particularly devoid of animal life, so the appearance of a peevish black bird swooping over my shoulder was a particularly disturbing surprise. I jumped out of the way, landing squarely on the floor as the crow swooped over a row of cinnamon-scented pine-cones. Everyone in the aisle turned, looked me over for a split-second, and went back to their shopping. Animals might be sparse on Division street, but crazies are a staple.

As I dusted myself off, I saw the offending corvid perched behind the pine-cones. It wasn’t smiling at me, at least, not with its intractably straight beak. But insofar as I was lifting myself off of the linoleum, it seemed content with the mischief it had caused. If that were the only reason that the bird seemed pleased, I could have chalked up the whole exchange to freak coincidence, and continued pondering the higher mysteries of the frozen foods aisle.

Yet, there was something more sinister in the way that bird looked at me, something inexorably wedged in the collective unconscious of evolving man. That little cinnamon-dusted memento mori perched above the pies knew exactly what I was afraid to admit. You’re going to die someday. And the minute you set hands on that cheesecake, you’ll make it come even sooner. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon. And I, or a crow just like me, will be there. Laughing.

I do not think that even the most excitable shopping-spree-contestant has moved with the speed that I had on my way out of the store. Home in an instant, I quickly tore off the soy ice cream’s plastic label, and I trembled to grasp a first spoonful. Thinking better of it, in seconds flat, I was shivering under the table. The spoon rested in the quickly melting ice cream, and I would eat it, nevermore.

The Cat’s Meow

October 28, 2007

The expression “The cat’s meow” is a quaint piece of Americana denoting superlative goodness, perfection, and even sexual desirability. Particularly popular during the Jazz Age, it was said to have been coined first by Thomas Dorgan, a turn-of-the-century cartoonist and possibly the most successful turner-of-phrases eveeeeerrrrrr. (He was also missing a few fingers on one of his hands – this will prove important later in the post).

This past summer a dear friend of mine, in his infinite hospitality, offered to make me a new cocktail he had devised just that day. He called it The Cat’s Meow. Or maybe he called it A Cat’s Meow in which case I was remiss to have not embarrassed him publicly. On the other hand, it may be considered poor form to bite the hand that tends your bar. Regardless, this friend (who constantly uses the non-existent word “irregardless”) introduced me to a tasty libation and I am in his debt.

The Cat’s Meow

Whiskey (amount to be determined according to one’s evening plans and amount of responsibility the following day)

Ginger Ale (nearly top off)

Red Grenadine (one shot)

*Warning: The Cat’s Meow is high in sugar and will most likely leave its owner with a serious hangover.*

Perhaps my attachment to this concoction is due in part to the immediate association I make upon hearing its ingredients. Sing along if you know it:

Brown eyed women and red grenadine/The bottle was dusty but the liquor was clean/Sound of the thunder with the rain pouring down/And it looks like the old man’s gettin’ on

We miss you, Jerry. Good Americana deserves good Americana as company. Now two great Americans who were without all ten fingers and have made significant cultural contributions are forever linked courtesy of alcohol and language. That’s the cat’s meow.