Friday, December 24, 2010

Northeast Distillers


There appear to be a growing number of distillers manufacturing spirits throughout the northeast – including several right here in Brooklyn!  For the full New York Times article, please click on the link below …


Just Don’t Call It Moonshine

Thursday, December 23, 2010

2010’s Top Cocktails


The Village Voice has just announced their favorite cocktails for 2010.  Many of these are actually signature cocktails for the bar to which they are attributed.  Matter of fact, some of these bars are even in my own little corner of The BK.  Seems like I need to be getting out more ( ~ sigh ~ ).  For the full list, please click the link below …

Top Shots: Our 10 Best Cocktails of 2010

Sparkling Wines & Champagnes On DME


My review of Sparkling Wines and Champagnes for your New Year’s Eve celebration has just been posted on the Drinking Made Easy Web site.  If you like the post, please remember to Tweet it, share it on Facebook or leave a comment on Drinking Made Easy.  To read the article, please click the link below …

New Year’s Eve: A Sparkling Wine & Champagne Review

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Macallan Tasting On DME



My review of The Macallan Scotch tasting has just been uploaded to the Drinking Made Easy Web site.  Please remember to Tweet the post if you’re on Twitter or to Share it if you’re on Facebook.  Also, please feel free to leave comments or ask questions.  To read the entire post, please click the link below: 

The Macallan Master Class Tasting

Monday, December 20, 2010

Kubrick’s “2001” Explained


As embarrassed as I am to have to admit this, I have never quite understood Stanley Kubrick’s so-called masterpiece, “2001:  A Space Odyssey”.  Although I’ve seen it multiple times (but not lately), it’s always gone over my head.  Recently, I read an explanation of the movie that I believe makes the most sense in terms of helping me to understand and appreciate what I saw and why the film is so highly regarded; it was an article written by noted film critic Roger Ebert – the piece was written around the time the movie was released and I think it sufficiently fills in many of the blank spots that have troubled me over the years.  Here’s an excerpt:


Silence and attention are especially useful during "2001: A Space Odyssey" because here for once is a film that makes a total statement. You cannot really understand part of it until you have seen all of it. Then, afterwards, you can go back and fill in the missing places. But while it is there on the screen, you should simply let it happen to you. No questions. No whispers. Let the movie have its chance.

Because "2001" needs to be seen this way, I think it will have a better chance with younger audiences. Kubrick himself has speculated that his film wouldn't have much luck with audiences raised on "linear movies" - that is, on movies that follow a plotted story line from beginning to end.

In a linear movie, you never ask why John Wayne wants to kill the bad guys (although perhaps you should). But in Kubrick's movie, there are questions harder to answer. What about that enormous black monolith, for example, which follows Man through Kubrick's universe?



If you have been stumped by this movie over the years as I have, then you owe it to yourself to read the entire article for a detailed analysis; in that case, please click the link below …


"2001" -- The Monolith and the Message

Sunday, December 19, 2010

David Lynch On Cell Phones


As a movie lover, it deeply saddens me that we may be developing a generation of people who will only or primarily consume them on – of all things! – their cell phone. 

Therefore, it is with great pleasure that I recently discovered one of my favorite filmmakers, director David Lynch, has spoken out on this atrocity. 

I agree with his comments 100%.


Friday, December 17, 2010

Little Fockers – Movie Review

Last night in the final session of the Fall Semester of my movie class, we saw “Little Fockers”, starring Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro as well as appearances by a bunch of other folks. 

When Jack Byrnes decides he must hand over the responsibility of head of the family to his son-in-law Greg Focker, Greg then desperately tries to prove to Jack that he’s worthy – but after Jack suspects Greg of being a philanderer, can Greg convince Jack that he’s faithful?
Struggling to earn a decent living as Head Nurse at his hospital, Greg Focker (Stiller) is forced to take a job on the side working for a pharmaceutical company to help them sell their new Erectile Dysfunction drug.  This causes him to spend less time with his family, resulting in father-in-law Jack Byrnes (De Niro) becoming suspicious about this new behavior.  Jack is particularly upset by this because after a recent mild heart attack that caused him to come to terms with his own mortality, Jack informed Greg that he wants Greg to take over as head of the family upon his demise. 

Jack and his wife Dina (Blythe Danner) are in town visiting Greg and their daughter Pam (Teri Polo) because Greg & Pam’s twins are about to celebrate a birthday.  While there, Jack figures that this is an opportune time to check up on his son-in-law and determines something is up when he discovers samples of the Erectile Dysfunction medication in the closet and sees Greg leaving the family at night.  Jack confronts Greg about this and informs him that if Greg is to take over responsibility of running the family once Jack is gone, then Greg must earn his trust and show that he is truly a dedicated family man. 

One night, Jack tails Greg and finds him at Greg & Pam’s new house, which is currently being renovated prior to their move-in; Greg is alone with Andi (Jessica Alba), the sexy saleswoman from the drug company with whom Greg works closely.  Andi then comes on to Greg – Jack spots this and mistakes it for Greg cheating.  During the birthday party of Greg & Pam’s twins – an elaborate affair held at the palatial estate of Pam’s old boyfriend Kevin (Owen Wilson) – Jack confronts Greg about his supposed infidelity.  Can Greg convince Jack that he’s loyal to his wife and thus earn Jack’s trust?

It wouldn’t take too much effort on my part to trash this movie, but I refuse to do so.  First of all, I realize that there are quite a few people that have enjoyed these Stiller vs. De Niro flicks over the years, which accounts for their popularity and success at the box office (not to mention the resulting sequels).  Besides, taking the opportunity to bitch-slap the film would only make me look like some kind of a pompous pseudo-intellectual who’s above this type of major Hollywood production (which my ego wants me to believe that I’m really not).  Since there are already enough professional movie critics who are paid for that sort of thing already, why should I bother doing myself the disservice?  Suffice it to say that if you liked the first two movies in this series, then you will probably appreciate this one as well.  

For those of you who saw “Meet The Fockers”, I should warn you that Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand (who played Stiller’s parents in that film) are barely in this movie – their appearance results in basically what you might think of as cameos, having precious little to do in terms of driving any aspect of the plot forward.  Essentially, wasted performances by a pair of big name stars.  Kind of makes you wonder why their characters were even in the movie in the first place.  The jokes – which I found few and far between for something that’s supposed to be a comedy – weren’t particularly funny to me and they mostly just left me shaking my head.  The one bright spot for me was the scene where Alba runs around in her undies for a bit.

After the screening, our instructor interviewed the movie’s primary screenwriter, John Hamburg, who was also among the producers of “Little Fockers”.  Our instructor characterized this series of movies as a “franchise”, not unlike something such as “Star Wars”, partly because of the fact that the filmmakers are now in the role of making a sequel to a sequel.  Hamburg said that this gave him great trepidation because as you explore new twists on the theme, you find that you are gradually running out of story ideas and the whole concept loses steam after a while; he joked that maybe the next film would instead be a “prequel”, titled something like “Fore-Fockers”. 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

NYC When The Big One Hits


According to an article in The New York Times, it can be possible to survive a nuclear attack – albeit with some rather unrealistic methods.  For example, how long do you think you could stay inside your car? 

For the full details on the 21st Century version of Duck & Cover, please click the link below:

U.S. Rethinks Strategy for the Unthinkable

Suppose the unthinkable happened, and terrorists struck New York or another big city with an atom bomb. What should people there do? The government has a surprising new message: Do not flee. Get inside any stable building and don’t come out till officials say it’s safe.

The advice is based on recent scientific analyses showing that a nuclear attack is much more survivable if you immediately shield yourself from the lethal radiation that follows a blast, a simple tactic seen as saving hundreds of thousands of lives. Even staying in a car, the studies show, would reduce casualties by more than 50 percent; hunkering down in a basement would be better by far.

But a problem for the Obama administration is how to spread the word without seeming alarmist about a subject that few politicians care to consider, let alone discuss. So officials are proceeding gingerly in a campaign to educate the public.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

NYC’s Fiscal Health


Some reports (like this one) say that New York City is finally on the rebound from the Recession, thanks to Wall Street’s performance in 2010 – however, we’re not out of the woods yet because of the budget gaps. 

Here’s the city’s financial recovery plan for the next year …

NYC Budget Rpt 11 2011

Can You Be A NYC Firefighter?


Do you have what it takes to be a New York City Firefighter?  After the recent article published by The Village Voice, the only possible answer to that question would be, “I would certainly hope so!”

The Voice published a sampling of some of the multiple choice questions in the test; a few are below, but if you want to know the correct answers, you’ll have to click the link to read the entire article on The Voice’s Web site.  Note that while the questions may not be so dopey themselves, some of the possible answers supplied in the multiple choice selection are so silly that it would be hard to understand how someone could get them wrong.


The 10 Most Idiotic Questions from FDNY Entrance Exams


1. While operating at the scene of a car fire on a street, a firefighter was told to inform the officer of any dangerous conditions at the scene. Which one of the following conditions would be considered most dangerous to the firefighter operating at the scene of the car fire?

2.  Firefighter Jacobs has just come upon a young woman who has just started bleeding profusely from the lower part of her right arm. Which one of the following actions should Firefighter Jacobs take first to control the woman's bleeding?

3. Firefighters must stop the flow of traffic in the safest possible manner when operating at the scene of fires or other emergencies located on highways. Firefighters have been assigned to stop traffic at night while operating at the scene of a car fire located on a highway. Which one of the firefighters is the most likely to attract attention of motorists in the safest manner?

4. A fire department instructor is explaining to a newly-assigned firefighter the hazards of electrical wires that have fallen in the street. Which one of the following is an action that a firefighter should NOT take?

5. Firefighters have responded to an apartment for an emergency water leak and are now standing in front of the door to the apartment. Which one of the following actions should the firefighters take first to gain entry into the apartment?

6. After firefighters are sure that a fire has been extinguished, and that there is no hazard in the building, they begin a salvage operation. Salvage involves moving and covering furniture and other properties, covering broken windows and holes in the building with plastic, and redirecting and cleaning up water to minimize damage. After extinguishing a fire in a high-rise apartment building, firefighters begin salvage operations. Which of the following pieces of property is in the most danger of being damaged?

7. A fire department instructor is explaining the hazards of operating on a frozen lake to a newly-assigned firefighter. Which of the following is an action that a firefighter should not take in this situation?

8. Firefighters conduct building inspections to locate potential life-threatening conditions in the even there is a fire. Which one of the following would the most-serious threat to life in the event of a fire?

9. Firefighters are required to operate on the subway tracks during emergencies in the subway stations. Which one of the following would present the greatest threat to the safety of a firefighter working on the subway tracks?

10. A group of firefighters and their officer respond to a fifth floor apartment in a seven-story building. When they arrive at the apartment, they are told that the contents of a wastepaper basket was on fire, and the fire was extinguished prior to their arrival. The officer instructs the firefighters to ventilate, or remove, the smoke from the apartment by first using a method that will not cause damage to property. Which one of the following would be the most appropriate method for the firefighters to use to remove the smoke?

Nationwide Commute Times


As a New Yorker, I’m thinking that maybe I need to move from Kings County (Brooklyn) to King County (Texas).  For the full article, please click the link below:


U.S. Census: New York City has nation's 3 longest work commutes; Texas has shortest


Looking for a shorter commute, New Yorkers? There's always King County, Texas.

The southwest county boasts the shortest average work trip in the country: just 3.4 minutes, a batch of new U.S. Census Bureau numbers released Tuesday shows.

That's barely enough time for a New Yorker to swipe a MetroCard and and stand on the subway platform.

The three average longest commutes in the mainland U.S. are all within the five boroughs: Staten Island is first at 42.5 minutes, followed by Queens and Brooklyn.

The national commuting average was 25.2 minutes per day.


In this economy, could it be possible that the reason the commute time in King County, Texas is so short is because there are actually no jobs there?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Hangovers: All The Dirty Details


If you’ve ever wondered about the biology behind the aftereffects of a night of binge drinking, then you need to check out this article from The Independent (please click the link below):


The science of your hangover

Just in case you start finding some of the facts a little too dry for your taste, you may want to skip to the end, where they have instructions on how to prevent hangovers and what to do (or not do) when you get a hangover. (Remember:  Hangovers can be treated, but NOT cured!)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Rich, Defined


What is the definition of the word “rich”?  If you believe the federal government, an income of $250,000/year makes you rich in the United States of America.  As a New Yorker, I know that a quarter of a million a year may sound like a lot, but if you’ve got a family, it won’t take you very far. 


This article from The Los Angeles Times took an interesting perspective on the subjective definition of “rich”.  An excerpt appears below; for the entire article, please click this link:


Wealthy Americans: How much money makes you rich? -


Reporting from New York —

It's just not the same on this island as anywhere else.

In Manhattan, a monthly parking space goes for $550. A magician for a children's party asks $650 an hour. (A rookie will take $400.) The nanny gets $600 a week. Breakfast for four at a corner diner is $40; a dog walker is $10,000 a year; a plumber who makes emergency calls won't lift the toilet lid for less than $250.

Occasional spa treatments?

"Did you have to ask?" said Ricky Metz, a Manhattan hairdresser who boasted about the combined $310,000 she and her husband earn a year but became embarrassed trying to explain how it is spent. "I know, I know I shouldn't whine, but in New York unless you're a millionaire you don't feel rich. We feel middle-class."

Really, they're not. They're among the 2.5% of Americans — couples who annually earn more than $250,000 and individuals who earn $200,000-plus — whom the Obama administration and the Democrats have considered wealthy enough to pay higher taxes starting next month.

Favorite Fast Foods


The Village Voice has an article about “good” fast foods – the ones I liked from that list are the White Castle burgers (pictured above) and Wendy’s baked potatoes. 


For the full list, please click the link below to check out the article:


10 Fast Food Items That Don't Totally Suck

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sparkling Wines For New Year’s Eve



 USQ Sparkling Wines Tasting Menu

Recently, I attended a tasting of Champagnes and sparkling wines at Union Square Wines & Spirits ; they hold this tasting every year around this time for people looking to purchase some bubbly with which to ring in the new year.  If you’re planning on having a little shindig at your place to celebrate New Year’s Eve, I’d like to share with you some high end Champagnes and reasonably priced sparkling wines that were served up at this tasting. 

The tasting featured of a total of 20 bottles, consisting mostly of genuine Champagnes or Cavas, with a few rosés thrown in; there was even one American-made sparkling wine from an area that you’d least expect.  Although I didn’t get a chance to try all of them (I intentionally skipped the rosés for fear that they might be a bit too sweet for me), I did sample most; this review won’t include all 14 I tasted, but rather, just some of the highlights.  I was a little surprised (not to mention slightly disappointed) that there was not a Prosecco to be found; I’m not sure exactly what was the reason for this, but nevertheless, I was glad to see that quality non-French sparkling wines were present. 

USQ Sparkling Wines Part 2

Let’s start with some of the more exclusive ones simply to satisfy some folks’ curiosity, then move on to a couple of sparkling wines for us hoi polloi …


Moët & Chandon NV Champagne Brut Impérial (Épernay, France) - $42

One of the things I learned at this tasting was that sometimes, the higher-end Champagnes can be somewhat less sparkling, which I found a bit surprising.  The reason for this, I found out, was due to the fact that the manufacturers do this intentionally to enhance the drinkability of their product.  Basically, the belief is that the gentler the sparkling wine, the easier it is to digest.  Arguably, one of the best examples of this strategy is the Moët & Chandon; I found this to be a particularly tasty, extra-dry Champagne with a slight citrus taste.  It consists primarily of Pinot Noir, with considerably smaller concentrations of Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. 

Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin NV Champagne Brut “Yellow Label” (Reims, France) - $40


By comparison, the Veuve Clicquot is considerably lighter than the Moët & Chandon, but is decidedly more acidic, containing only 10% Chardonnay.  Interestingly, one of the grapes is a stilled Pinot Noir, which presumably accounts for its reserved appearance, not to mention its taste.  Given that the Veuve and Moët are fairly close in price, I suppose you could say that it’s a bit of a toss-up between the two.  My own personal preference was for the Moët simply because I appreciated its fuller body and could envision myself sipping this on its own, whereas the Veuve almost calls out to be paired with some kind of food, even if it’s just hors d'oeuvres as opposed to an entire meal. 

Dom Pérignon 2002 Champagne Brut (Hautvillers, France) - $185

Dom differs not only in its price, but also in its combination of grapes – it consists of only two grapes, resulting in a Champagne that is half Chardonnay and half Pinot Noir.  One of the reasons that justifies the price is the fact that the grapes from which it comes have been extremely highly rated by the experts.  Even with the one-day only discount which brought the price down to “only” $150 per bottle, I still couldn’t afford it, but make no mistake, it was most tempting. 

Now, if you’re going to splurge for your once-a-year Champagne, any of the above would definitely be a superior way to celebrate the new year.  Unfortunately, these were all a bit over my budget, so I didn’t purchase any of them, despite the discount.  However, I am also of the opinion that sparkling wines should be enjoyed more frequently – just the fact that you’ve managed to survive a work week is, in my humble estimation, a reason for celebration (and if you’ve already read my previous posts about brunch cocktails, you’ve probably guessed that by now).  That said, I did make two purchases on this day of some of the more affordable selections:  The Sonim NV Cava Brut Reserva and the Gruet NV Sparkling Wine. 

A sparkling wine from Spain – also known as a Cava – the Sonim was priced at under $12.  This was the first one I tasted on the afternoon and found it nothing short of delightful.  Spending approximately two years living in the bottle, I felt its rather sweet smell was deceptive as it had somewhat of a dry taste, in contrast.  If you like your sparkling wine to overwhelm you with carbonation, this would be the one to choose as it is extremely bubbly. 

Finally, the Gruet may be the closest thing you will ever find to being an “American-made Champagne”, if you’ll pardon the obvious oxymoron – but this was not at all said lightly.  This sparkling wine is actually produced by a French family that historically made Champagne.  About 20 years ago, they came to the United States to try to make inroads in this market and looked all across the country for a location that had both the terroir and climate of the Champagne region of France.  What they settled upon, surprisingly, was Albuquerque, New Mexico where they produce this sparkling wine of two grapes – consisting of 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay.  By the way, I characterized this as an affordable sparkling wine and it is – don’t be fooled by the price listed on the tasting menu as that was a typo.  With the discount, I was able to score this one for only $13. 

That’s about it – whether you’re going to stick to a budget or impress your guests with a fancy label, these are my picks for New Year’s Eve. 

In closing, as always, please remember the words of philosopher Rene Descartes, who said, “I drink, therefore, I am!”

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Company Men – Movie Review



Last night in my movie class, we saw the drama, “The Company Men” starring Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones, Chris Cooper, Kevin Costner and Maria Bello.



After several corporate executives are laid off, they struggle to get back on their feet – but with the nation currently in the throes of a severe economic recession, will any of them ever be able to find a job again? 




Bobby Walker (Affleck) is a Director of Sales who seems more proud of his golf game than anything else – but when he finds himself out of a job after severe corporate downsizing, his pride makes it difficult for him to break the news to his family.  During these rough economic times, his former employer GTX – a major conglomerate located in Boston that focuses on shipbuilding – has been forced to terminate hundreds of employees; despite the fact that Bobby has been with the company for a dozen years, the Director of Human Resources (Bello) informs him that his position has been eliminated. 


These layoffs earn the ire of Bobby’s former boss, Gene (Jones), who was not informed that head count reductions were going to take place in his division – this results in him being at odds with the CEO of GTX (Craig T. Nelson), his long time best friend.  Frustrated at work and unappreciated by his selfish shrew of a wife at home, Gene winds up engaged in an affair with the GTX Human Resources Director.  In the meantime, Bobby sets out to try to win another position immediately, but does not find this to be at all easy; opportunities are few and far between at his level and those that do arise require him to either relocate or take a 50% salary cut.  Out of desperation, he is then forced to work as a carpenter for his surly brother-in-law (Costner), with whom he has long had a tense relationship. 


Meanwhile, Phil (Cooper), someone who worked his way up from the ground floor in this company over a period of many years, learns that he is canned in a second round of layoffs.  In his late 50’s and lacking both the education and professional network to secure another position, things look particularly dire for him.  It is at this time that Gene learns he is also no longer employed at GTX, either.  Having been one of the first employees of the company, this is a exceptionally tough blow, especially combined with the fact that he was let go by someone he once considered a friend.  With a worsening economy looming in the near future, can these men somehow manage to get themselves gainfully employed before it’s too late?



Inevitably, this movie will be compared to “Up In The Air”, which was released almost exactly one year ago – unfortunately, it will not be a terribly favorable comparison as “The Company Men” is not that high a caliber of film.  For one thing, the ending is a bit muddled and feels very contrived – our instructor characterized it as almost “a Frank Capra type of ending” and I would have to agree.  Another thing is that while there are parts of the experience of these men that seem quite realistic, the portrayal of other aspects are less so because they come off as a bit too perfect – Affleck’s saintly wife and the abrupt resolution of the conflict between his character and the brother-in-law, to cite two specific examples. 


One way in which the film does try to distinguish itself from “Up In The Air” is by virtue of the fact that its story focuses more on the executive level management rather than the mid-level employees.  When we see the opulent lifestyle of some of these executives and their materialistic obsession – not to mention the fact that one of them decides to have an affair with Bello’s character in the midst of all of this mayhem – it may turn out to be quite the challenge to muster too much sympathy for some of these guys, despite the fact that a number of us may have had our own similar experience with these exercises in downsizing in the not-too-distant past. 


Lacking in any particularly unique insights provided by the screenplay, you get the impression that this is one of those rather ordinary, non-descript movies that only got made because of Affleck’s commitment – which would also explain how the rest of the cast wound up in this film as well.  “The Company Men” takes some trite turns at times, which is too bad since this topic deserved a better treatment.  According to the story I heard about the history behind this movie, the screenplay was actually written back during the recession of the early ‘90’s and was never made into a film; given the bad luck we’ve found ourselves in economically, it was thought that the time was right to dust off this script and get the movie made – sadly, the opportunity to make some revisions in the interim doesn’t seem to have taken place. 


Thursday, December 09, 2010

Eggnog Alternatives


What to drink in this holiday season when you don’t want an eggnog?  Check out this article from today’s New York Times:


The Eggnog Resisters’ League


… as well as this video of the recipes …


A Hybrid Article


Two great topics united:  alcohol and the movies.  Check out this entertaining post from the Web site “Drinking Made Easy”.

Beer in Cinema

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

When Is Movie Sex Dirty?


A scene from "Black Swan"

In his old act as a stand-up comedian, Woody Allen once had a joke that went something like this:  A woman asked him if he thought sex was dirty; his response was, “Only if you’re doing it right”.  Apparently, The Motion Picture Association Of America (MPAA) – the organization that doles out the ratings to the movies – believes that sex is only dirty when one of the participants is a man … or at least, that’s what this latest article from The Chicago Tribune would have you believe. 


The exact same sex act was done in two different movies:  “Black Swan” and “Blue Valentine”; “Black Swan” was given an ‘R’ rating while “Blue Valentine” was assigned The Scarlet Letter(s) of ‘NC-17’, which almost guarantees a dreadful Box Office.  What’s the difference between the two scenes?  Well, in “Black Swan”, the act is performed by two women while in “Blue Valentine”, it’s a man and a woman.  Make sense?  Nope, it doesn’t to me, either.  Click on the link below to read the full article from The Trib …

Two films, two sex scenes, two different ratings


One new movie generating Oscar buzz shows a woman engaged in a steamy sex act with another woman in a scene that lasts just over a minute without any nudity. Another new movie also piquing the attention of Academy Awards voters shows a man performing an identical act on a woman in a scene that lasts just over a minute without any nudity.

Filmgoers who watch both movies, especially those oral sex scenes, would be hard-pressed to describe how one is more explicit than the other.

Yet the first movie, "Black Swan," a supernatural drama from Fox Searchlight that opened this weekend, was given an R rating by the Motion Picture Assn. of America, which means it can play in nearly all theaters across the country. The second film, "Blue Valentine," which opens Dec. 31, was given a dreaded NC-17 because of what the Weinstein Co. studio says is that scene.

John Lennon: 30th Anniversary Of His Death


As a New Yorker, it is hard to forget that today marks the 30th anniversary of the day John Lennon was murdered outside his Manhattan apartment building, The Dakota.  Many people learned of his death by hearing it announced by Howard Cosell during ABC’s Monday Night Football game.  Here’s a YouTube clip of that announcement …

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

EggNog Recipe

From The New York Times:

The New York Times Winter Drink Recipes

From The New York Times:


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Monday, December 06, 2010

A Distillery Grows In Brooklyn



How would you feel about drinking a Brooklyn-based Bourbon?  According to The Village Voice, the borough now has its own distillery.  Please click the link below for the full article:

Can New York City Make Good Bourbon?


Over the weekend, Kings County Distillery (New York's first whiskey distillery since Prohibition) opened its doors and welcomed visitors in for a tour and a taste of its just-released bourbon.

The bourbon, which has been aged for about five and a half months, is currently only for sale at the distillery, but will eventually become available in liquor stores come March. Why such a short maturation time (most bourbons age for about four years)? Kings County Distillery uses smaller barrels, meaning that the barrel-to-liquid ratio is higher than at a commercial distillery; thus, the bourbon doesn't need as much time in the barrel.



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Sunday, December 05, 2010

Macallan Scotch: A Master Class Tasting



On Saturday night, December 4, 2010, I attended a Macallan Scotch Master Class Tasting in New York City. Despite the fact that I’ve attended several Scotch tastings over the past couple of years, this was my first time at such an event and I found it to be quite a standout and highly recommended, should you have the opportunity. The tasting was sponsored by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society of America.

Upon registration, we were immediately whisked into a reception area where a bar was set up to serve Macallan 12 and 15 year old Scotches to start out the evening. Initially, I was a little disappointed – not in the quality of the Scotch, but by the selection – I had one of those Peggy Lee moments (“Is That All There Is?”). After about a half hour of tasting both – alternating with neat, water and ice – we were invited into the main room where a group was seated at a bunch of tables. This semi-captive audience was then subjected to a marketing pitch for Macallan Scotch that almost made me feel as though we were all going to be told to sign on the dotted line to purchase a time share by the evening’s end. Any hard-sell tactics were substantially mitigated by the great whisky and snacks we were offered throughout the evening.


The evening’s tastings would include 18, 21, 25 and 30 year old Macallan, in that order. Starting with the 18, while it was acknowledged that there are many who prefer their Scotch with a splash of water or some ice, it was recommended that we drink this one neat. I found this one to be somewhat deceptive in that its nose seemed a bit on the sweet side, but there was a bit of a burn in the back of the throat upon tasting. The 18 was described as viscous and rich, with a distinct taste of the sherry cask in which it was aged.

It was explained to us that while a splash of water in Scotch can open up its taste a bit, ice can actually make certain of its tastes more concentrated, accentuating some of its flavors. To that end, we were then introduced to something of a novelty item – a Macallan Ice Ball machine. Basically, it is a device originally developed in Japan that takes a block of ice and converts it into a sphere which would fit into almost any rocks glass. We were told that the ice was anodized by the machine and that while best to finish your Scotch before its ice melts, I found that the ice ball in my glass took a very long time to melt. My experience with this ice ball and the 18 year old was simply that while it certainly cooled down the Scotch, it also had the unfortunate effect of killing the nose and diluting its taste.


The Macallan representative was quick to note before advancing to the 21 year old that when their Scotch is aged, it always stays in one type of cask only – usually, either a sherry cask of Spanish oak or an American oak bourbon cask. By contrast, the 21 had something of a lighter feel to it – honey, vanilla and butterscotch notes were suggested by some tasters. As far as food pairings, attendees suggested cheeses (especially gorgonzola) or smoked meats. However, the Macallan representative suggested that it be paired with desserts – in particular, crème brulee – due to its sweetness and texture.

The 25 year old Macallan was served in what might be called a sherry glass, which helped to enhance its nose – I found it to have a delightfully sweeter aroma, with a sharper, “whiskier” taste. Tasting this one, there was an obvious distinction compared to the 18 year old because the extra aging in the sherry cask provided something of a soft woody flavor.

Moving to the 30 year old, tasters were quick to pick up on the peat, which was used to dry the barley; it possessed an intense taste, retaining the flavor of the cask. Perhaps because of this, the nose had a delicious outdoorsy quality. Holding it up to the light gave it a particularly lovely golden glow, allowing us to appreciate this special distillation even more.

Although we were given to understand that this was the final item on the menu, we were surprised to discover that we would be treated to a Cask Strength to end our evening. Aged between 8 to 10 years, it ranges anywhere from 53 – 65% Alcohol By Volume. Once sipping this one, it was clear why it was saved for last because it completely dominates your taste buds and palate. Sniffing this one, I almost felt as though my nasal hairs may have been singed, which generally indicates to me that I’m about to taste a Scotch I’ll really enjoy. We learned that the term Cask Strength means that the whisky is bottled straight from the cask in which it was aged, as opposed to being slightly watered down as is the process with the others we tasted earlier in the evening.

If you ever have a chance to attend one of these Master Class events, by all means, try to do so – you’ll not only come away with a deeper appreciation of the whisky, but also an enhanced education about the way it is manufactured – not to mention why it can be so expensive!

Until next time, as philosopher Rene Descartes once said, “I drink, therefore, I am”.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Three Sheets In NYC For NYE


Planning on spending your New Year’s Eve in Times Square?  Will you be drinking?  In that case, you may want to watch this video:  Zane Lamprey on “Three Sheets” does a New York City pub crawl …


Biutiful – Movie Review




Last night in my movie class, we saw a Spanish drama titled, “Biutiful”, starring Javier Bardem. 



A divorced single father of two struggles to raise his children – but when he suddenly learns he’s dying of cancer, how will he be able to provide for them once he’s gone?




Uxbal (Bardem) is barely able to eke out a living by distributing goods to illegal African street vendors who earn a little extra on the side by dealing drugs.  Having divorced his bipolar alcoholic wife Maramba who fronts as a masseuse while actually earning a living as a prostitute, he is forced to raise his son and daughter on his own, with little help from others.  After experiencing considerable pain and an increasing frequency of blood in his urine, he can no longer put off going to a doctor, who informs Uxbal that he has an advanced form of prostate cancer, which now appears to be spreading to other organs due to the fact that he has delayed medical attention for so long. 


Although Uxbal is coerced to bribe the Barcelona Police to look the other way on the drug-dealing Africans, the street vendors are nevertheless raided when their illicit business becomes a little too brazen.  As a result, one of his vendors winds up being imprisoned, with the impending eviction of his wife and infant child from their tiny flat.  Resigned to the fact that she will be forced to return to Senegal with the baby, Uxbal offers her his apartment while he and his kids move in with the unpredictable Maramba. 


Meanwhile, things take a very unexpected turn for the worse when the two Chinese men who run a sweatshop that manufactures the goods  Uxbal distributes suddenly find all of their illegal alien workers dead one morning as the result of a freak accident.   Believing he may have inadvertently caused their death and fearing criminal prosecution, Uxbal must work with the two men to cover up the mess so that none of them are implicated.  But with his health in rapid decline and little hope in sight, will Uxbal somehow be able to secure responsible, reliable caretakers for his children after he’s dead?




At two and a half hours in length and with a ploddingly slow pace, this movie is in dire need of some serious editing.  Add to this the fact that the story unceasingly heaps one improbable complication after another upon its already beset protagonist, the movie becomes so dark, bleak and pessimistic that I found it difficult – if not impossible, at times – to watch.  I was surprised by the fact that the class did not appear to have a large number of walk-outs and stunned in the post-screening discussion to learn that most of the students liked the film considerably.  Despite this and the fact that this movie was supposedly well-received at the Cannes Film Festival, I can’t really recommend it unless you are a hard-core fan of either Bardem or director Alejandro González Iñárritu. 


Despite my misgivings, I must say that in other respects this is a well made film with a strong performance by Bardem; some feel that both he and Iñárritu may be destined for Academy Award Nominations.  One of the interesting technical choices that was made has to do with the use of subtitles.  Set in Barcelona, most of the characters speak Spanish – accompanying English subtitles for which appear in white.  When other characters speak in a different language, however, subtitle colors change to denote their dialog is in a tongue other than Spanish – for example, when the Senegalese characters speak French, their English subtitles appear in yellow and when Chinese is spoken, the subtitles display as blue.


Before the screening, the film’s star Javier Bardem was interviewed by our instructor for almost an hour.  Bardem spoke of the enormous challenge this role was for him, but added his respect and admiration for this director, with whom he has wanted to work for quite some time.  He mentioned that the intentional misspelling of the movie’s title (“Biutiful” instead of “Beautiful”) was done to accentuate the film’s meaning:   strive to find things that are beautiful and pleasurable although life has its inherent imperfections. 


Thursday, December 02, 2010

The Flair Bartender Who Got Burned



A fascinating article from The New York Times about a rather theatrical – if not dangerous – flair bartender and the unusual twists and turns of his career.  For the full article, please click the link below …

Albert Trummer, the Bartender Who Played With Fire

THE whole aesthetic — some might say shtick — of Apothéke, the haute bar sequestered in a mysterious time warp of Chinatown, was pharmaceutical from the moment it opened. Bartender-slash-alchemists in white lab coats decocted botanical-and-herb-infused libations from great laboratory beakers. On certain evenings, the main medicine man himself, Albert Trummer, stood in the back bar lined with classic Latin-labeled druggist vials and soothed grateful patrons with curative elixirs and stress-relievers, even as he mesmerized them with his mixological rituals.

Yet in the past few months, sensational headlines and court documents have painted this sanctuary at 9 Doyers Street as a lurid demimonde of leaping flames, physical confrontation and imprisonment. A temporary restraining order forbids Mr. Trummer from conducting his signature cocktail chemistry in the bar. He faces criminal charges and possible jail time for attempted arson as well as a civil lawsuit, filed by a co-owner and managing partner, Heather Tierney, charging “repeated, unlawful and dangerous actions and conduct.”

Furthermore, Ms. Tierney’s brother Christopher, another partner, faces a year in prison on charges that he assaulted Mr. Trummer, who has sued the Tierneys for imprisoning him in the antediluvian Apothéke sub-basement — a reputed opium den long ago — and for inflicting pain, “emotional distress, shock, fright and apprehension” in a dispute involving rights to Apothéke’s trademark.

What could cause three owners of a lucrative and respected cocktail haunt to turn on each other this way? One explanation is Mr. Trummer’s penchant for creating pyrotechnic displays by lighting alcohol on fire while mixing.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

DME – Coffee Cocktails



My latest blog on Zane Lamprey’s “Drinking Made Easy” Web site has just been posted.  Please click on the link below:


Coffee Cocktails




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Chica A Chica


According to this article (please click the link below for the full text), here are the best lesbian scenes in the movies:

5 most famous lesbian scenes


  1. "Wild Things" (1998)
  2. "Mulholland Dr." (2001)
  3. "Bound" (1996)
  4. "D.E.B.S." (2004)
  5. "Cruel Intentions" (1999)

Now that Netflix has changed their rates, it sounds like it’s time to test your bandwidth and start streaming!