One day out of the blue I got an email from Gabriel Stulman — the guy behind a few of New York’s smallest and most loved restaurants (Joseph Leonard, et. al.) — inviting me to lunch sometime. If you have ever been to Joseph Leonard you will understand Gabriel and I share an aesthetic, something that was further established for me the first time we met. That was about a year ago and it was near the beginning of the process of planning Gabriel’s newest spot, Jeffery’s Grocery. The concept is oyster bar meets local grocery meets late night drinks-and-a-sandwich. destination. Eventually, our shared appreciation for vintage American aesthetics led to a series of discussions and meetings over the next several months where Gabriel and I would meet to talk about the look and feel for Jeffrey’s. We discussed everything from the colors of the wood that made up the bar, to the beadboard, the employee uniforms (which are from Levi’s, Gitman Bros. Vintage, Kenton Sorenson Leather, Stanley & Sons and The Hill-Side; more on that here soon) and all of the little design details and layout that goes into making a place unique. I’d even see Gabriel and his fiancé Gina up at Brimfield with all sorts of cool old stuff that was destined for Jeffrey’s. It was obvious early on that Jeffrey’s was going to me my type of place.
John Tinseth and I met sometime in 2008, back when I worked with J. Press. We met up one night for drinks with a mutual friend. I think John got stuck with the tab that night (which if memory serves was around $300; not that he has let me forget it). In my defense, I would have happily paid, I’m not one to skip on a check especially when lubricated. Anyway, John started his website The Trad around the time I started ACL. The Trad is a little bit older actually — a fact I’m sure Tinseth enjoys privately. Well, it is at least something he doesn’t relish in front of me. Which is nice of him.
Tinseth and I hit it off immediately — the man is easily one of the best story tellers I have ever met in my life. Shit, add liquor into that mix and you have yourself one hell of an evening, which we always do. I don’t want John to get a big head, but The Trad is by far my favorite blog to read — especially since I know John and how he is in real life. Even if I didn’t know him I’m sure I would still love it. Tinseth has the rare skill of being a great story teller, but also being able to put those stories into words. I don’t know why he hasn’t been offered a book yet.
Over the past two and a half years I have tried like hell to get in touch with the people from Miller because I really love their flagship beer (old=flagship) — Miller High Life. I wanted to be involved, I wanted them to sponsor ACL, and well, shit, I wanted some free beer! In addition to obsessing over their super bubbly deliciousness, I have long been obsessed with the W+K produced / Errol Morris directed series of commercials. I think maybe the Errol Morris spots were ahead of their time. Especially when you consider the what is happening these days with this whole Americana thing. I also think that maybe the marketing folks at Miller don’t get it — just look at the “common sense” ads that the company has been running for the past few years. High Life is a gold mine of heritage, the best bottle shape in beer drinking and is a relatively unbiased product. When I say “unbiased” I mean — that while some people may view High Life as cheap and watery — they don’t attach the same connotations as the Bud Lights of the world.
If you happen to find yourself out in the country in Wisconsin, do yourself a favor and stop by the Pleasant Ridge Store for a burger and a beer. That’s exactly what I did not too long ago and I’m a happier man for it. Situated seemingly in the middle of nowhere (and I mean that in the best possible way) the Pleasant Ridge Store used to be exactly that, a country store, but these days they serve the farmers and dairy folk with cold Wisconsin brews and bar food.
Keep Aspen weird, that has been my battle cry. Maybe it is the fact that I am missing out on that thing (that I love) that is happening in Austin this week. At any rate, I have spent the better part of a week out in Aspen, the fanciest corner of the Colorado Rockies. We did some skiing and we did some snowmobiling, and afterward we went to longtime Aspen resident Hunter S. Thompson’s old watering hole the Woody Creek Tavern for shots of Jameson and cans of Tecate. Nestled neatly alongside a ramshackle stretch of Aspen’s finest mobile homes, the Woody Creek Tavern is quite possibly America’s ultimate dive bar. The regulars each sport their own brand of crazy — upon entering the Woody Creek one particularly welcoming regular inquired as to what spaceship my friends and I had just come from. Spaceship Reality sir.
It all started in 1985 when — in an effort to save money — Coca-Cola stopped using real cane sugar and reformulated the iconic drink to be made with high-fructose corn syrup. The U.S. government subsidizes corn growers so much (some $40 billion since the mid 90s) that HFCS is cheaper than sugar, and when you are producing on the scale that Coke is material costs are crucial to the bottom line. What does this have to do with Mexican Coke you ask? Well, the bottlers south of the border never made the switch to HFCS, so people (like myself) feel that Mexican Coke has a better taste than American Coke. I think the Coca-Cola made with real sugar is less sweet tasting and has a smoother finish than HFCS Coke and thus is superior. There is also some Coors beer action going on (ever see Smokey & the Bandit? They’re thirsty in Atlanta and there’s beer in Texarkana) because Mexican Coke is harder to get.
Bourdain’s No Reservations: Disappearing Manhattan was broadcast a while back, but it is still worth a watch if you haven’t seen it. Fuck, it’s worth a watch even if you have seen it ten times. Eisenberg’s, Manganaro Foods, Keens, Le Veau d’Or (which I leaned about when The Trad took me for lunch), this show is like my NYC gastro-playbook. Watch it, love it, live it.
Part 1/5: “Keens is meat and liquor, plain and simple.” -Anthony Bourdain