Thursday, August 22, 2013

Monday, August 19, 2013

Extracurricular Activity

Being a bartender has many upsides. I'd have to say that number one is probably money, with number two being the social aspect. But one of my favorite things about my job is the experimenting. I love when customers give me creative license. It's fun to make their beer selections for them, but I have even more fun playing with booze. After a good weekend behind the bar, sometimes I carry the inspiration home with me. After work yesterday, I stopped at my favorite bottle shop and spent some hefty coin on various spirits, bitters, and liqueurs. We had a few friends over and I made a total mess of the kitchen playing with cocktail recipes.

I was able to nail down two really solid drinks.

The first (pictured left) is sort of a gin fizz/whiskey sour hybrid:
      .75oz High West Silver OMG Pure Rye Whiskey
      1.5oz Hendrick's Gin
      1/2 Orange, Squeezed
      .25oz Grapefruit Juice
      1tsp Simple Syrup
      1 Egg White
      1 dash Bittercube Jamaican #2 Bitters
      1 dash Bittercube Bolivar Bitters

Combine ingredients in a shaker and shake it vigorously. Strain and serve up in a chilled cocktail or coupe glass.

This sucker has great pungent earthy tones on the nose, but cleans them out with bright citrus flavors. Egg white lays an impossibly light foam on top. The High West OMG is the most complex white whiskey I've ever had. It plays well with citrus and the herbal flavors of gin.

The second (right) started with a post here. I kind of used that recipe as a jumping off point.

     1.5oz Bak's Bison Grass Vodka
     .25oz Stirrings Ginger Liqueur
     .25oz Sweet Vermouth
     1 dash Bittermens Xocolatl Mole Bitters
     1 dash Bittercube Cherry Bark Vanilla Bitters
     1oz Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate

Combine ingredients in a shaker and stir. Strain it over ice in a rocks glass.

This has to be one of the best dessert cocktails I've ever had. Bold cocoa and spice flavors and a super dry finish that cleans out any of the sweetness. Bison Grass vodka is still new and exciting to me. The almond works great with big flavors, playing second fiddle on the palate and adding great aroma. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Words About (Four) Wheels

(Day's note: Part of the rejuvenation of this blog was to include an expansion of subject material. I know it's usually all about the hot dogs, but I'd like a chance to expand my focus and include more of what I love. Feel free to leave a comment and tell me how you feel about the new subject material.)

The motoring hobby is a dwindling bunch and it’s always reassuring to meet someone new that shares that four wheeled passion. I met my friend Sam though Kevi. She introduced us not long after the start of our relationship and used our mutual enthusiasm for driving as jumpstart. In the few years I’ve known him, he has jumped head first into the sport of drifting, documenting his progress along the way.

I certainly never “got” drifting. I mean, sure, I’ve slid my car around multiple loop on-ramps, spun it in parking lots, and played with throttle steer before, but the sport itself never made sense to me. This is one of the many reasons I’m grateful for Sam’s friendship. Going out to see him on amateur nights and watching his videos has opened my mind a little bit. The focus of his films gives a great look at the personalities in the sport all the while providing full throttle slide porn that makes it so spectator friendly.

Last week, Sam came over for a drink and showed us his latest video. He’s really been honing his craft and it’s a pleasure to be along for the ride. So it’s beyond those eye-rolls the lady throws at us while we’re swapping stories over a beer late at night. It’s inspiring to see someone pursuing such an expensive hobby with limited resources and zero abandon. Our split in taste (I wouldn’t really give much of a second glance to his bugeye WRX, nor would he swoon over my S197 Mustang GT) hasn’t prohibited us from bonding over a similar interest. We share an affinity for the internal combustion engine. The fact that we both want to go fast and even, sometimes, sideways inspires me to do more with my hobby.

It’s somewhat rare to find like-minded individuals the older I get. A lot of people don’t think it’s “cool” or “sustainable” to be into the hobby. Every time I fire up the 4.6 in a parking garage, or nail a heel-toe rev match on a mountain road, I don’t really care about how “cool” or “sustainable” I’m being. It’s ingrained. I take it very personally when someone tells me “nice car”. Just the same as I give my boss a hard time when he brags about the mileage he wrings out of his Prius on his daily commute.

My car has been the source of much inspiration for me. Just like the time I spent cleaning it today inspired me to write this, running out second gear in the twisties tends to fire up my creative brain. I hope I’ll have a venue to engage that impulse here.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Carnivore's Guilty Pleasure

(Image via Four Legs Good)

We're out of eggs at the HDN1 homestead. After a late one at work last night and a deep snooze into the early afternoon, I wasn't really feeling the cereal today. The lady and I decided it was finally time to go visit my friends Liam & Emily at their latest venture, Bragg's Factory Diner. Now that they have expanded their hours, we figured it would be perfect to grab some brunch in the mid-afternoon and hopefully see the two of them.

Though the subject matter of this blog is mostly meat-related, I've been known to visit Green on occasion and indulge in some of their mock-fast-food-but-actually-junk-food without a bit of shame. I've noticed that a lot of the time, some of their strange not-meats do even more of a number on my stomach than if I had just gone to McDonalds or Popeye's for the "real" deal. I used to call myself "stomach of steel", but recently, I've had to take more care with what I eat if I'm going to be able to walk around the rest of the day. 

This leads me to be somewhat apprehensive when approaching a dining situation featuring the word "vegan". A lot of the processed oils, soy and other fillers wreak havoc on my digestive system and leave me craving raw meat. After perusing the menu at Bragg's, I was pleased to see that they approach vegetarian and vegan eating with the "whole food" outlook. Using vegetables as a substitute for meats as opposed to attempting to recreate them always results in a happier stomach.

We settled at a table in the small corner building and ordered a couple iced toddys. The brew was delicious and smooth, if a little watery for my taste (I'm a high-octane coffee kind of guy). I ordered the Frank Lloyd Bite and the lady picked the Beet On The Brat Burger. After a few minutes, my two old friends brought out the food, we had a quick chat, and it was time to dig in.

My plate included two pancakes, hash browns, eggplant "bacon", and one biscuit with poblano gravy. It was plenty of food for the price ($10) and not one item was less than excellent. I'm very particular when it comes to both pancakes and hash browns. The pancakes at Bragg's were stellar. Not too bready but with enough mealy texture to feel substantial backed by a delicately sweet flavor. The potatoes had the crisp top and oily bottom that could saturate and defeat even the worst hangover.

The eggplant bacon was a pleasant surprise. Good savory taste with a bit of eggplant flavor to balance all the syrup from the pancakes. The texture was probably my favorite part. Almost like just-on-the-chewy-side-of-crispy thick-cut pig bacon. 

The biscuit was a hearty corn number, smothered in a poblano gravy that lacked every bit of the starchy white gravy flavor I despise. I could've stood it to be a bit more spicy, but I'm certainly not complaining.

Kevi's burger put on a clinic as far as vegan burgers go. The beet patty had a great savory flavor on its own, and the flavor of the beets played delicately against the crunchy texture and light kick of the corn relish. I was only able to snag a few bites while she was looking away, but it definitely blew any other vegan burger I've ever had out of the water.

From a service standpoint, it can be difficult to accommodate restrictive diets. I have struggled with this at my own place of work and with friends when dining out. The concept of a place like Bragg's is very specific but also inclusive. They serve eggs and dairy, but their bacon substitute (while it certainly isn't bacon) is damn finer than any mock-sausage or "facon" I've been served in the past. It has the feel and food of a neighborhood diner without the meat. I am certainly more comfortable here compared to a place plastered with smug environmentalist propaganda and lackadaisical elitism permeating the attitude of the staff.

I'm pleased with my friends for all their efforts in opening Bragg's. I expect nothing less than all the effort and passion that is evident in the quality of food and service they provide. They are both doing their part in growing the food culture in Downtown Phoenix. I can't wait to make it back to see them again and try more of their veggie diner eats. Just don't tell the hot dogs I've been cheating on them.