Month: May 2006

Mason’s Pub & Eatery 

The sign gave me the first impression of what kind of place Mason’s was going to be: “It takes balls to try our nuts.” I’ve tried balls in the past, purely out of a culinary curiosity, but I’m not fond of them. Never have been. But there must be other things on the menu at Mason’s a man like me could sink his teeth into. A neon sign in the window advertised Shiner beer, a favorite of mine from my college days. At least the trip outside of my regular stomping grounds out to Meridian wouldn’t be in vain.

“What’s that?” the server questioned me when I requested a Shiner.

“You have a neon sign in the window,” I replied.

“Oh, people give us signs all the time, and we get different kegs in.”

“Hmph, OK, give me a Skinny Dipper,” I responded, pointing to the vinyl sign hanging above the door. Luckily they had that and the server turned out to be friendly and very helpful in the end. She offered one of three sizes: regular, bigger than regular and a 25-ounce super gut buster. Of course, after a month of martinis, I had to go for the gut buster, but only one, since it was a long drive back to Boise.

The former home of Bolo’s, Mason’s is only slightly remodeled into a motorcycle and NASCAR theme joint. Lots of beer, a modest selection of cocktails, pool tables, big screen TVs showing car racing and a few video games could keep a diner/drinker busy in the restaurant. The menu had a motorcycle theme with cleverly named sandwiches and salads. You could “custom build” your own burger, a tempting idea, but instead I started off with a half-order of their famous wings, and then ordered Stacia’s Supreme Ride (a turkey sandwich with bacon, lettuce, tomato, avocado and onion) and finger steaks.

The loud sound of things frying in the back informed me that this was a serious fry factory. Actually, the menu said all-you-can-eat fries came with every plate, although I didn’t test that policy. The wings were not your ordinary wings. They were the whole chicken wing, not just the bicep part, and they were huge. Sitting atop a bed of pretzels and smothered in a spicy sauce, I chose bleu cheese dressing as the dipping compliment to cool our tongues. I have to admit, I’m not much of a wing man, but these were pretty darn good. The finger steaks looked like they were overcooked, but once I started munching on the little bits of meat they were tender and just right. Unfortunately, the Stacia’s Supreme Ride wasn’t so great, as it arrived sans avocado and onion. And although a slice of cheesecake for dessert was tempting, I was too full. The cheesecake, like the balls, would have to wait for another time.

—Bingo Barnes bowls a perfect 300.

>Mason’s Pub & Eatery, 601 S.Main St., Meridian, 884-3737. Mon.-Sat.: 11 a.m.-midnight, Sun. hours vary by season.

Absinthe, Part 2:  Absinthe’s impact

A little over 100 years ago, the after-work crowd in Paris would fill the cafés along the boulevard and drink greenish, milky cocktail known in colloquial parlance as La Fée Verte–“the green fairy.” It was notably the most popular adult beverage of the age. But absinthe’s popularity was its own demise.

Painters and poets of the time were inspired by the drink but popular culture remained skeptical. In 1859, Claude Manet’s painting The Absinthe Drinker was rejected by the annual Salon of Paris because of its depiction of something other than wine in a painting. Toulouse-Lautrec, known for his drinking and loose ways with prostitutes, was known to be so much a fan of the green concoction that fellow artists of the time claimed his paintings had absinthe’s hallucinatory glow in them. Oscar Wilde, who had a taste for absinthe–among other bizarre indulgences–wrote quite eloquently about its subtle and not so subtle qualities. Actor Maurice Barrymore called absinthe “the paregoric of second childhood.” Gaugin, Van Gogh, Picasso, Hemingway and Monet were said to enjoy the anise flavored drink. Some art historians even suggest that impressionism was somehow influenced by it.

Served ceremoniously, with water poured over a sugar cube balancing on an absinthe spoon, it became the ritual for millions of Frenchmen who enjoyed it recreationally. But many took too much a liking to the 72 percent alcoholic beverage (140-plus proof). Prior to alcoholism being identified as a disease, those who enjoyed the green fairy in addictive ways came to be known as suffering from absinthism. A movement to curtail its popularity gained traction. The beginnings of prohibition, the banning of all alcohol, were beginning to take hold, and its poster child was absinthe. All the movement needed was a tragic example for anti-absinthe advocates to latch on to.

On the evening of August 28, 1905, Jean Lanfray, a farmer in the French speaking region of Switzerland, shot his pregnant wife, his four-year-old and two-year-old daughters then tried to shoot himself but managed to only wound himself in the jaw. Authorities blamed his violent behavior on the fact that he had two glasses of absinthe. History tells a different story. While he had begun the day with two absinthes before dawn, he also loaded up on a crème de menthe, cheap brandy and a Cognac and soda at 5:30 a.m. at the local café before heading off to work. At lunch and throughout the afternoon he enjoyed six big glasses of wine then quit work at 4:30 when he had more wine and a coffee spiked with brandy. He returned home where he drank another bottle of wine, had another coffee laced with brandy before getting mad at his wife for not waxing his boots. So he waxed her.

The “Absinthe Murder” as it became known sparked a petition drive in Switzerland to ban absinthe. To make matters worse, Lanfray’s lawyers used an insanity plea blaming his behavior on the absinthe and not necessarily all the other stuff he drank that day. By the time it was all over, Switzerland banned absinthe in 1908, Holland in 1910 and the United States in 1912. Fearing intoxicated troops defending France against a well disciplined German army at the beginning of World War I, France banned all absinthe in 1915. With a small win against absinthe, the next stop was banning all alcohol. And history has proven what a success that was.

While no one doubts absinthe’s influence on art and literature that continues to be felt to this day, the myth and scare tactics used to ban the drink a hundred years ago continue to be repeated in the modern age and used to keep it illegal. Only in recent years has the hype been made clear by the truth about absinthe. Switzerland as well as other European countries has lifted the ban but it still remains illegal to produce in the United States.

Minty Fresh 

As I wander around my spring garden the irises are in bloom, the poppies are beginning to pop and the mint is, well, taking over everything. And when mint is taking over everything, there’s only one thing any sane man should do … make mojitos. A deceptively simple drink to make, the mojito is difficult to master. One just has to look at references in modern movies and television to notice how popular the drink has become in recent years. It was featured in the movie Bad Boys II, the James Bond Die Another Day,Shopgirl, The Pink Panther (the awful 2006 remake), an episode of Lost, an episode of The O.C.(albeit a virgin version), and in an episode of Family Guy where Brian the dog denies that it is a “gay” drink.

While the mojito may be enjoying somewhat of a renaissance as bartenders rediscover incorporating herbs in their drinks, mint leaves used for medicinal qualities and for flavoring have been used for centuries. Most modern spirits have their evolutionary tree going back to tinctures and medicines filled with herbs and other tonics. It’s the primary ingredient (behind the bourbon) in a mint julep. A fresh mint leaf will reinvigorate a stale piece of gum. Its versatility cannot be questioned.

Modern mythology says the mojito comes from Cuba. But you probably didn’t know that it was at it’s most popular between the late 1890s and 1940 in the United States during the rise of Cuban popularity. Recently remarketed to popular culture by the Bacardi company, the drink is gaining ground as a retro classic. For the reading impaired, you can see an animated instruction on how to make a mojito at www.bacardimojito.com.

Other Internet references abound. One of our favorites is www.mojitocompany.com, a site started by two lawyers, who apparently fell in love with each other as well as mojitos. Their journey to find the history of the mojito took them back to Caribbean Pirate Richard Drake who in the late 1500s made a concoction called “El Draque” (the dragon) with mint, sugar, lime and aguardiente (an unrefined rum). Other origin stories abound that it was invented by Cuban field workers, African slaves or that it evolved from Kentucky’s mint julep. Ultimately, stories settle on the most likely origin, being that Caribbean sugarcane workers squeezed sugar cane juice to make a juice called garupa, they also fermented it (and remnant cane) into a primitive alcohol called aguardiente. To combat the roughness, they most likely flavored it with a Cuban mint named Yerba Buena (not to be confused with the Californian Yerba Buena plant and original name of the city of San Francisco). Over the years it evolved and, whammo … the mojito was born. On Mojito Company’s site, they also sell a key tool needed to make a mojito.

You can make a mojito many ways but the key is to get the mint and lime and sugar all blending nicely. To do this, you need a muddler, a wooden stick used to pound down the ice, mint, lime and sugar. You can use sugar cubes, but powdered sugar works best. Even better, if you can get some pure sugar cane juice (available at some Latin markets) you’ll be stylin’. There are many kinds of mint, but regular old spearmint will give you the strongest flavor. Crushed ice works best, but if you don’t have it, use your muddler. Any old white rum will do, but remember, quality is quality and your taste buds will appreciate the few extra dollars a glass bottle will cost you over a plastic one. To top it off, use club soda. The Mojito Company likes to add Angostura Bitters to the drink. I recommend giving it a try. It wouldn’t be out of ordinary for this other Caribbean concoction to be included in the mix.

There are many variations as well. You can use a flavored club soda, flavored rum, various kinds of mint or other kinds of fruit. Experiment. Who knows? Maybe you could invent the next new classic.

Absinthe, Part 1: The myth of the green fairy

Mention absinthe at a bar in hushed tones to fellow tipplers and you’ll get wide eyes and discussions of its mind-altering effects. This spirit, its sales banned for almost a century in the United States and only recently made legal again to produce and sell in parts of Europe, is making a comeback. Home-brewed recipes can be found on the Internet while modern versions–breaking away from the traditional fluorescent green color being bright orange, blue and clear–are showing up in foreign markets.

Part of absinthe’s allure and myth is the alleged mind-altering qualities derived from the inclusion of wormwood, among a witches brew of other botanicals in the recipes. Scientific studies have shown that the substance contained in wormwood called thujone blocks the brain’s receptors for an inhibitor of nerve impulses causing neurons to fire easily which may lead to seizures. While oil of wormwood has been considered powerful medicine for centuries, in great quantities it is also known as a poison. Thujone has been pointed to as the main cause for the mythological hallucinatory quality of the drink, but recent research has proven otherwise.

Ted Breaux, a 39-year-old environmental chemist from New Orleans became fascinated with absinthe after hearing about it from a friend in the early 1990s. Since then he has been on a mission to rediscover the ancient recipes banned and since lost for almost a hundred years. In his research chemically analyzing samples of absinthe from hundred year-old bottles discovered at estate sales and bought from collectors he has discovered that there is practically no thujone present in these old recipes. From a recent article in The New Yorker, we learn that Breaux has been working with the Combier distillery in Saumur, France (an old-school, pot stilled distillery designed by Gustave Eiffel) to reverse engineer and produce three old-style brands of absinthe.

Recently I ordered one of each bottle and had a tasting at my swank bachelor pad. Invited guests were all excited to taste the mysterious banned spirit and while we didn’t have any Cuban cigars to share at our contraband-infused evening, it was enjoyable to taste them all discussing each one’s unique characteristics. While buying absinthe abroad to bring back or ordering it on the Internet is not illegal, bottles can be confiscated by customs. Distillation of absinthe within the United States does remain illegal, but so does a host of other activities that make little sense. A variation by the name of Absente does appear on U.S. shelves, but it contains no thujone and in my opinion bears little resemblance to traditional absinthe.

Modern absinthe distilled in various European countries often is advertised as having a high thujone content, playing off the urban myth of the hallucinogenic qualities attributed to the beverage. What is more likely to be the cause is that absinthe is usually bottled at 140 proof, about 70 percent alcohol. Your typical bottle of vodka is about 80 proof, or 40 percent alcohol. In other words, if not prepared properly, it will kick your ass. You are not supposed to drink it straight, but mix it with ice water poured over a sugar cube sitting on an absinthe spoon. One other disturbing trend in the absinthe renaissance is that some of these modern absinthes are being advertised as “The ultimate panty remover” an implied variation on using a substance like the date-rape drug GHB to seduce your date.

Home-brewed recipes found on the Internet are not made in the same process and bear little or no resemblance to old-school absinthe. In fact, they may be dangerous. Simply soaking wormwood and other herbs in a bottle of vodka does not make absinthe. Traditional absinthe is made from grape alcohol (also used to make brandy) and macerating the herbs prior to distillation. Like resurrecting extinct species from DNA found in fossils, historians like Ted Breaux have taken the time, done the research and made the effort to produce it in the old-fashioned way to allow us a taste of history, a history that has been profoundly influenced by the culture that it spawned.

The Finest Martini Ever Made: The legend of the 10-minute Martini

Boise Weekly, may 24, 2006

Perhaps no other cocktail–some even argue that it is even a cocktail at all–has generated more debate across the bar than the Martini. Shaken or stirred? Vodka or gin? Olive or lemon peel? These argumentative questions are forever ingrained into imbibers of what most agree to be the king of all spirit concoctions. Entire books have been written on the subject. While there is no doubt that there are many ways to make a Martini, spirits enthusiasts agree that the drink has evolved over time to suit the tastes of the population it has served. To most, the most common topic of debate seems to be shaking versus stirring. While both have pros, the also have cons to their method of creation.

I, too, have engaged in the debates. I have spent hours testing different methods to determine the best. Then I chanced upon a bartender in Boise, Idaho who had made what I consider the perfect martini. And it is neither shaken, nor stirred. It is marinated.

Pat Carden, an old school bartender who would never dare shake a martini, discovered the preparation by accident over 20 years ago while bartending in California. A guest ordered up a martini but needed to step out for a few minutes as Pat had poured the ingredients into the mixing glass but had not stirred it yet. To save the drink, he put it in ice and when the guest returned much, much later Pat offered to make him another drink. The man, however, insisted he have the one Pat put in cold storage. Expecting it to be watered down from sitting in ice for over 20 minutes, the man was surprised to find it was the smoothest martini he’d ever tasted.

At his bar in Petaluma, California, Pat would have clients call ahead at the north end of Marin as they commuted home from San Francisco. It took them approximately 10 minutes to arrive and the name stuck. Pat’s Martini has gained popularity in every city he has tended bar. In Boise, it has won the city’s Martini Mix-Off for two years in a row.

His process is simple. In the cocktail shaker is put ice, gin and vermouth. The whole thing is then sunk into an ice bucket and left to sit for 10 minutes. No stirring, no shaking occurs. Pat believes that the secret lies in basic physics. As molecules of liquid chill, they descend in a suspension displacing the molecules below and causing a very slow stirring, a marinating if you will. I’ve witnessed the process many times and I believe that because the ice is well below freezing, the alcohol does not melt very much of it inside the shaker. Much like making ice cream the old fashioned way, the salt–in this case the alcohol–keeps the whole concoction cooler than 32 degrees when combined with ice. Almost every time, the shaker is pulled out of the ice encased with surrounding ice cubes, a sign that the whole thing is much colder than freezing and dangerously tempting to touch with your tongue, especially after about 30 minutes worth of his Martinis.

“Shaking a Martini is like slam dancing,” Pat says. “The partners, in this case the gin and vermouth, never really get close. Stirring a martini is like a waltz. The partners are closer and there is a hint of romance. But the 10-minute Martini is a very slow and romantic dance through the ice. The partners relate to each other in an intimate manner resulting in marriage.”

The Starlight Fades: You can’t judge a bar by what’s written between the covers

Part of what I do when traveling is go to bars, especially if I have read about them in fashion magazines or the in-flight airline tomes sandwiched between the Skymall catalog and the barf bag. For years I’ve been reading about Harry Denton’s Starlight Room (formerly and from another era the Starlight Roof) that overlooks Union Square in downtown San Francisco atop the Sir Francis Drake Hotel. The write-ups always describe it as a high-class joint, a tuxedo and gown kind of place with exquisite cocktails and dancing, all with one of the most incredible views of the city from it’s 21st floor location.

Opened in 1996 by its locally famous host Harry Denton, the Starlight Room has been graced by numerous celebrities, all publicly paraded on their Website and in photos. Names like George Clooney, Sean Penn, Sharon Stone, Michael Stipe, Perry Farrell, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Mikhail Gorbachev, Cuba Gooding Jr., Don Johnson, Prince, Bill Murray and Francis Ford Coppola are hyped as having sipped concoctions in the bar.

I was intrigued that in numerous bios, Harry Denton claims to have come from Magic Valley, Idaho (pop. 800). And since I live in Idaho I was surprised because there is no such city or town as Magic Valley, instead describing a primarily agriculture region in the south central part of the state. Perhaps this was my first clue as to the hype being greater than the reality.

Numerous glowing reviews in magazines such as Vanity Fair justified a $15 door charge to get in. A hostess gave the all-knowing wink when asked about getting a table. Actually, she was a little more tacky and said, “Anything is possible,” with her hand conveniently placed palm up. A twenty-dollar bill usually gets you a table, but on this Saturday night it got us a four-person booth next to the dance floor. Handled with not so much finesse, she had us follow her to the large booth and unceremoniously kicked out a Midwestern looking group of four tourists… not very classy at all and definitely without any finesse.

The cocktail waitress, adorned in a floor length cocktail dress immediately showed up and took our drinks. I’ve paid $10 to $15 for a cocktail before, but the ambiance has to be great and the cocktails exquisite. We had no reason to believe that to be untrue at this point. A Jack Rose and a Cable Car (one of the signature drinks on the cocktail menu) showed up quickly. But then the glamour quickly began to fade.

The waitress never showed back up although the busboy quickly removed our empty glasses. Drunken patrons literally staggered around bumping into tables. Hawks patrolled the perimeter of the dance floor looking for easy drunken tourist prey. Patrons sauntered by in ratty jeans and tank tops. “Whatever happened to a dress code?” we asked ourselves. People danced like they hadn’t been out in years or had a drink since the last time they were in San Francisco or Vegas. Women in blue-jean Capri pants from outlet malls in Ohio gyrated their hips to the glorified karaoke band singing popular cover tunes from the 70s and 80s. This wasn’t the classy joint we were led to believe.

Sure the bar was elegantly decorated, the staff (despite the serious attitude) was dressed nice, the view was incredible, but beyond that it was like any middle-aged pickup bar in any city. However, people seemed to be genuinely having a great time. Of course, when you take a frumpy Midwestern housewife in town with her husband for a convention and fill her with booze who wouldn’t?

We never saw the namesake host, Harry Denton, famous for hobnobbing and, well, being the bar host. As I waited in line to get an elevator down and out of there (the line for the elevators longer than the line to get in), I contemplated the life expectancy of nightclubs. They often open with high hopes, dress codes, class, friendly service, but then they do fade. They become less popular, and to compensate lower dress codes, cut back on service. Perhaps to keep them alive they ramp up the public relations just a bit, allegedly pulling in favors from tourist magazine editors they plied with drinks.

In my opinion, the Starlight Room has lost its sparkle … dimmed by the fog that we watched roll in that evening. In a deeper, sadder thought I felt it may be the end of an era, the one of the classy cocktails and dancing club. I am sad for that.

Candy Cities 

As I was working in the garden yesterday contemplating Steven Corbert’s satirical address at the White House Press Correspondent’s dinner—in which “W” was sitting not more than 15 feet away on stage—I recalled something he said. He was saying hello to politically notorious people in the audience including Mayor Nagin from New Orleans who is now famous for dubbing his town the “Chocolate City.” Corbert then added that Washington D.C. was like a chocolate city, but with a marshmallow center. But Nagin wasn’t “fresh.” The band Parliament–with musical notaries of George Clinton, Bernie Worrell, Bootsy Collins and Eddie Hazel–made an album in 1975 themed around Washington D.C. they called “Chocolate City.”

So I began to think. If New Orleans is the new chocolate city, what would Boise be… the white chocolate city? And would that make Meridian the white chocolate city with nuts? Eagle could be the gourmet white chocolate city. Wheras Nampa and Caldwell would be more of a caramel filled white chocolate. I still don’t know which one would have nuts but I believe the farther west one goes the more nutty it becomes. Sun Valley, on the other hand, would be more of a carob, because it’s not really a chocolate,it just pretends to be like one. These are things I do in my garden now that I don’t maintain office hours.

Willowcreek Grill + Java 

Like most folks, the first time I arrived in Boise I journeyed downtown via Vista Avenue. While the avenue is quite nice once you drop off the bench, with the depot on your left and the scene of the Capitol in front of you, the views closer to the airport are not nearly as nice. But they’re changing. Once an avenue of run-down strip malls, pawn shops and bars, south Vista Avenue is becoming a promenade of nice restaurants, remodeled shopping centers and more upscale establishments. (Unfortunately the cool Moxie Java was torn down in the name of progress, but c’est la vie.)

One establishment I’ve had the pleasure of dining at on several occasions sits closest to the airport just before the second bench among the extended stay hotels. Willowcreek Grill + Java would have seemed out of place just a few years ago, but it fits with the neighborhood now.

The two times I have visited at lunch and at dinner, the place has been packed, but waiting for a table has never been a problem. The menu is diverse, with fish tacos, beer-battered fish, chicken wraps, a large assortment of salads, a nice diversity of sirloin burgers and pastas. Any picky eater will be sure to find something that excites them.

One particular lunch I enjoyed was a special of the day, the crawfish etouffé. Spicy, delicate and served with rice, the flavors bounced around my mouth only to be quelled by the Arnold Palmer that was refilled frequently when it reached half empty.

The next time I ate at Willowcreek, we dined on less exotic fare. A small but eclectic assortment of beers teased me into ordering one and rootbeer for the kids. While there is a kid’s portion of the menu, it didn’t excite the spawn all that much, so we explored the appetizer menu. Hotwings, chipotle chicken quesadilla, portabella sticks and even the alehouse calamari steak (formerly known as Billy the Squid) tempted us, but ultimately the Los Nachos Grandes called out our names. This heaping pile of chips covered in all the fixin’s (with the optional grilled chicken) was tasty and more than a meal for two hungry mouths. It could have stood to be a little hotter, as the cheese in the middle hadn’t quite melted but it was good nonetheless.

In my role as dad for the evening, I opted for an aged sirloin, cooked medium rare. The eight-ounce piece of red meat rubbed with lavender spices and served with an assortment of vegetables was not too out there, but I was craving protein and it hit the spot. We were intrigued by the dessert menu, but since we had many more nachos to eat than we could ever finish, I made the executive decision to forego the sweets for the evening. Perhaps we’ll reconsider upon our return.

—Bingo Barnes always reconsiders upon his return.

Willowcreek Grill + Java, 2273 S. Vista Ave., 343-5544. Grill: Mon.-Sat.: 11 a.m.-close. Java: Mon.-Fri.: 6 a.m.-close, Sat.: 8 a.m.-close. Close Sunday.

Three New Liqueurs 

One of my favorite things to do is peruse the liqueur section of my local alcoholic beverage store. For most wine and beer drinkers, liqueur is simply a misspelling of liquor. But to aficionados, liqueurs (also known as cordials) are typically sweet–but not always–while liquors are usually dry, the sugar used up in the fermentation process to create the alcohol. The sweetness in liqueurs comes from the addition of sugar in the form of fruit and other ingredients. These sweet flavorings of fruits, herbs, seeds and barks also usually impart something tasty in to the base spirits, the steeping and marinating of ingredients after distillation rather than prior.

On my recent trip to the liquor store I perused the colorful liqueur section. I saw many of my favorites such as Cointreau, Kahlua, Bailey’s, Grand Marnier, Frangelico and Tuaca. Many are used in popular cocktails to sweeten and flavor. One of my favorite liqueur based cocktails from the British Virgin Islands is a Bushwacker, made with equal parts Bailey’s, Tia Maria, Kahlua, Vodka and Frangelico. Blended over ice, this 80 percent liqueur based beverage will inspire one to dance naked by moonlight on the beach, and seek a hammock and shade the entire next day. While liqueurs are mostly combined they can also be sipped neat or over ice. But I digress. Back to the liqueur shelves.

One can often be drawn in by the beauty of the bottle, or the exquisite color of the liquid within, but do not be fooled. Liqueur bottles are often intricate, delicate, original and beautiful to behold but it is important to inspect the ingredients when listed and the proof, which may vary from the strength of wine (about 30 proof) on up to over 100 proof where approximately 50 percent of the liquid is alcohol. Judging a book by it’s cover can be risky, so can judging a spirit or liqueur by it’s bottle.

As I scanned the shelves, three new bottles caught my eye: Intrigue, Hideous and Zen, all distinctly different and from my perspective, worthy of giving a try.

Intrigue’s label says it is made from premium French vodka blended with Cognac and passion fruits. Made in France, this 17 percent alcohol liqueur (wine ranges from about 12 to 16 percent) is green in color. (There is also a tangerine version that is orange in color.) The bottle is beautiful but the spirit within was anything but intrigueing. I admit my tastes are well defined–perhaps a little snobby–but this liqueur may appeal to a sweeter, more tropically tuned palette. For my money I’d buy it for the bottle. I admit, the corked cap is a nice touch.

Hideous, “Made from the finest berries in the Pacific North West,” is anything but hideous. This tall bottle corkscrews at the top and the maroon colored liqueur within is definitely berry. A sip of this 70 proof liqueur with roots from Texas and Louisiana (but made in Rigby, Idaho) reminded me of my grandmother’s berry cobbler, but with a definite kick. By serving it over ice with a splash of club soda it made a refreshing beverage, but I felt it still needed something more. I splashed a dash of Amaretto, for a nutty almond overtone and invented a new drink, which I named for a drinking buddy, a Karmic Kelly. According to their website (www.hideous.com), Hideous is only available in a few states right now, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Texas, Louisiana and Georgia, but it has been my experience that quality exports fast and these days you can get most spirits mail order.

Zen is perhaps the most unique of the three. This 40 proof liqueur by Suntory in Japan is made from “the essence of ceremonial Japanese green tea.” Its dark green color has overtones of grass, bamboo and, well, green tea. Suggested to be sipped over ice, mixed with tonic, or blended with a little citrus vodka and a splash of lime for a martini variation were all well received by my tastebuds.

My best advice for experimenting with liqueurs is just that–experiment. You never know what gems will show up.

Studio Time 

Well, the studio is coming together. I’ve been receiving Ebay packages on a daily basis full of wood type. Last weekend I drove to Seattle then Portland to pick up a small press. A few days ago my poster press arrived and I’ve been playing with it. Sorting type has become a zen thing… the A goes here, the X goes there.

I’m excited to begin my first projects. So if you have any posters you want done, give me a call. I’ll post pictures here as I get them done.

Back to the studio.