The Ice Geek Cometh

Ever since that first classic cocktail passed my lips (an Aviation, if you gotta know), I’ve been enamored with cocktail alchemy. Though my home attempts are more miss than hit, it’s still a mental exercise in taste and skill. After more than a few botched tipples, all I can say is blessed be the bartenders, for nightly slinging balanced, flavorful booze.

It’s not all tinctures and booze in Candy Land, though. In the August issue of Wine Enthusiast, I dove into one of the most important ingredients in the cocktail biz: ice. I got a deep assist in the expert department from bar gurus Sother Teague (Amor y Amargo, NYC) and Charles Joly (The Aviary, Chicago). With their insight, I covered the major variations, from crushed to spherical, and even a cool ice pick to rock at your home bar. The piece is a geeked-out primer on the cold stuff; give it a read, if you’re so inclined.

Illustrations by Patrick Morgan

I can’t mention ice and cocktails without a bow and a hat-tip to noted ice master Camper English. His posts on the importance of ice and how to create diamond-clear cubes at home are legendary, and make for a fascinating read.

New York Minute: ‘Welcome to Night Vale’

Here, the crowd awaiting last night’s live Welcome to Night Vale reading, a modern take on classic pulp and sci-fi radio shows, outside the historic Town Hall theater.

The show was charming, charming, charming and so full of hahas! Give it a listen if you want old school radio play-realness, amusing wordplay and entertainment.


…Long live Tamika Flynn and the Glow Cloud.

The Devil Made Me Drink It

Playful red wine

It’s Wednesday and I have the night to myself.

This is huge. Huge like whoa. My roommate is out doing her lovely I’m-young-and-fun-city thing, while Ian is working, selling wine like a boss before heading home to Queens. Hell, even the overfed cats are sleeping.

What to do, what to do… Oh look, Sablonnette’s Le Bon Petit Diable, sitting pretty in the wine rack. Problem solved.

This juice is my jam: made from biodynamically-grown Cabernet Franc from Loire, this devil-child is an easy-sipping glass of joy. I mean, just look at the label! Frolicking from couch to arm chair, probably sticky with pie and/or cookies and/or other things that make kids sticky, this Batkid is living the carefree life.

So is the stuff beyond the label. Floral nose with a cheerfully cherry palate. Bright, whimsical and young acidity. A slight glimpse at its naughty, cheeky natural wine origins.

I can only equate what’s happening in my mouth to the ridiculous and uncomplicated thrill of wrapping a towel-cape around my neck as a baby-person and kicking major bad guy ass, washing down the victory with a jelly-and-Wonder Bread sammich.

Cuz that’s how Batkid rolls. 


New Toys + Sunday Adventures

Last week, I joined the ranks of so-called “prosumers” and got my hands on a sweet new toy: a Lumix GF6 Micro 4/3s camera. While I’ve wanted to go the DSLR route, I don’t have the capital or the desire to lug a beast of a camera around me when all I’ll end up doing is posting to here/Instagram. At the same time, I didn’t want a dinky little toy camera that would produce grainy photos. Months of research lead me to Ruthie (yes, she has a name). Interchangeable lenses, lots of manual features, built-in WiFi (for, you know, Insta-ing): She’s packing the “just right” heat I’ve been looking for. While I’m still getting use to her, I am excited to get over the learning curve and blog about my goings-on around the city more. First things first, though: I gotta get over how self-conscious I get when I’m just out and about, shooting like a schmo.

Before I blather on for too long, here’re a couple of shots from this weekend. So far, so good.

Bicyclette rouge2 better

The bf and I recently decided to implement Sunday adventures, as it’s the only day of the week either of us really have off. Before heading out on the cultural leg of the day, we opted for a late breakfast. A quick gander at Google yielded Bo’s near the Flatiron, which promised brunch-y delights a la New Orleans. Score.

Quick tell: The restaurant opened back in October, ’13, but has only been offering brunch for the last 4 weekends. The room is airy, and when we went, it was relatively empty; definitely check it out before other brunchspotters get wind.

The order: Grilled romaine salad with cherry tomatoes, asparagus and Meyer lemon vinaigrette; biscuits and gravy; Bo’s breakfast sandwich (super tasty, but boring to photograph); cocktails were refreshing but had too much ice/watered down. Stick to the playful wine list.

I was dumb and asked to be seated in the back, even though there was so much natural light in the friendly bar area out front. As such, I was forced to play with low, yellow light. Womp womp. A bit of in camera color correction wasn’t so bad, though. The really subtle purple of my Bicyclette Rouge cocktail (above) is basically washed out; the below biscuits and gravy look oozy, but I ain’t mad about the composition. Note to self: always request a window seat.


In honor of National Library Week, we took a jaunt to the Morgan Library to check out the Little Prince exhibit, which was charming and enlightening. Did you know Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote it when he was in New York? Neither did I. Displaying the manuscripts throughout the gallery, the Morgan explores de Saint-Exupéry’s creative decisions in crafting his charming story about an alien prince. They wouldn’t let me shoot in the gallery (boo, hiss), but it’s still worth checking out; the exhibition ends April 27.

While you’re there, check out Piermont Morgan’s awesome three floor library (there’s a Gutenberg!) and his private study, which is straight outta True Blood. 


This Guy.

Metro North Commute

Confession: I’m a train-napper. Get me on a choo-choo and within 5 minutes, I’m basically comatose. Commuting via train each day is an opportunity to get in some Zs before getting to the office. The gentle lulling, the calm rocking… it’s a bliss not unlike the last few minutes of a deeply relaxing yoga session.

While I’ve caught myself dozing off deeply in the past (snoring etc.), I have nothing on this guy. This is some next level shit.

Do you, dude. Do you.

Saturday Morning Flights of Fancy

I woke up this morning feeling some type of way, a kind of abstract restlessness I get when I feel like I haven’t done my share. The best way I can describe it is my sense of the absence of enough.

I’m sure you can relate? For me, enough is that sunrise just over the horizon, if only the horizon would get out of the damn way. Enough is that rabbit-shaped lure that speeds around a greyhound racetrack. It goes away when the race is over, but win or loss, the dogs have a taste for blood and want to beat the ever-living hell out of that shitty, manipulative trick of a machine. Continue reading

Chicago’s Best Bookstores: A Bibliophile’s Take

The smell of freshly baked bread, the fabled aroma of “new car,” the scent of a freshly talcum’d baby: these are but some of life’s olfactory pleasures. How boring it would all be without them, right? And then, of course, there’s the woody, musty, leathery and wise smell of an old book, oft overlooked when you consider the others. When I lived in Chicago and was in the market for a good whiff of a well-written sentence–or just looking for a wordy adventure–these were my comfort-zones where I could lose myself for ages.

Quimby’s Bookstore: Are you an indie kid at heart? If you are into zines, small-press releases, graphic novels and readings with by local and independently-published authors, Quimby’s has what ails you. Independently-owned with a helpful staff, Quimby’s and its sister-store, Chicago Comics, provide an off-beat selection for an off-beat clientele.

Ravenswood Used Books: A veritable fire-hazard, Ravenswood Used Books in Lincoln Square on the North Side is a headache to navigate. Books are organized by section but that’s when any semblance of order ends. Find them in stacks, on the floor, on stools, chairs, ladders. It’s hard not to lose oneself in this wonderful, wizard-tower-like Purgatory of words.


Myopic’s Lenny, RIP

Myopic Books: Located in the heart of Wicker Park, this literary mainstay is pregnant with books. There are three floors (arguably three and a half) of shelves crammed with used books, while new and local releases are kept by the front desk. The claustrophobic walls, steep stairs and deep couches on the third floor will beckon to any bibliophile ready to drown in words.

Women & Children First: Located in the diverse, queer-friendly Andersonville neighborhood, Women & Children First is one of the nation’s largest feminist bookstores. Proudly stocking over 30,000 titles by, about and for women, including children’s books and LGBT fiction and non-fiction, WCF also regularly hosts visiting poets and authors.

Shake Rattle & Read Book Box: Boxes of plastic-sleeved vinyl greet you upon entering this long storefront in Uptown. The man pricing books absentmindedly flicks ash from his cigar, nodding a gruff hello. The books, magazines and collectible ephemera catch your eye, and though you’re not too impressed, you notice the prices. You leave with an armload.

Bookman’s Corner: The sign out front says “Books Rare Medium Well done,” and, well, Lakeview’s Bookman’s Corner delivers. It’s prices on used books can’t be beat, especially when there’s a Border’s down the street. Unlike some of the other stores on this list, it is surprisingly organized, despite the general clutter of well-loved books.

Book Cellar: Cafe, wine bar, books, neighborhood vibe: this Lincoln Square book slinger is a cultural anchor in the quaint right-off-the-Brown Line ‘hood. The shop hosts readings and signing by local and national authors, and kiddies can enjoy any number of well-curated titles while the grown-ups take in their book club.

Note: A version of this post originally appeared on Gridskipper, which, well, is no longer. So basically, I’m cannibalizing it.
[Lead photo by Moyan BrennMyopic and Lenny pic by Flickr user juicyrai]

The Reading List: JBFA decisions, Taco Bell’s brekkie and more

Today was a battle of wills: either I submit a positive opinion on Sondheim’s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum  or I missed out on tacos. Couldn’t. Handle. The. Pressure. I wanted to travel to Flavahtown so bad, so whatever, I’m weak, but haha, a guy can lie for sustenance, right? Yes. Delicious, life-giving flavor-happenings. Anyway, news!

Eater breaks down how the James Beard Foundation Awards are decided, beginning with building a respected committee: “The idea is to find an expert, very knowledgable about the restaurants in their region … who also ha[s] the journalistic distance,” according to Providence Cicero of the Seattle Times and the committee’s chair. The collected categories are then distributed to “ voting body of over 300 previous James Beard Restaurant & Chef Award winners; 250 panelists divided evenly among 10 regions … and 17 members of the Restaurant and Chef Award subcommittee,” before winnowing it down further. Really good read. [Eater]

What is the best time to book airfare? Welp, let’s turn to Pauline Frommer, who knows what’s up. If you’re looking to travel soon, check out this post. [Frommer's]

Hangry booze-hounds, rejoice:  Taco Bell has released a breakfast waffle taco and McDonald’s is mulling pushing back breakfast hours to later than 10:30 am. I refuse to link, though; while those flavors aren’t below me, the buzzmarketing is.

Apple, Marriott and Southwest, Delta and American Airlines, amongst 80+ other businesses, have voiced displeasure with Arizona’s idiotic anti-gay law, asking Governor Jan Brewer to veto the bill on Friday. Hell, Mitt Romney has contributed his pro-veto voice, so there’s that. [Skift]

Natural Wine Week is descending upon NYC next week, and, well, I can’t say I’m not looking forward to it. This is the Juice I like to drink. Drank. Drunk. Time to plan… [Jenny & Francois]

Scandal comes back on Thursday, and Olivia is probably thirsty… Blog post then!