Tuesday, December 28, 2010

On Architectural Oversight and Aperitifs

In New York City, and I imagine part of the eastern seaboard, it had been snowing continuously for what seems to be no less than fifty-two hours. From what I saw out of window and from what the sushi delivery man relayed to me about the conditions, it is quite bad.

Despite Hector’s diatribe on city’s handling of the snow and the apparent conditions I decided to trek to the office today. After exiting the subway and walking down 53rd street past Park I was thankful to only almost fall no more than four times. Chelsea boots, although quite conducive to my normal assassin down the avenue, are not ideal for snowy pavement. Not really paying attention to anything as I was walking I approached my office building and stepped over a makeshift barrier of yellow caution tape as if that was normal and incredibly appropriate. I then looked around and I was surrounded by this tape and started to think why.

Conventional circumstances would probably cause someone to exit the area and examine the situation but I thought of it as prudent to observe from the inside out, not quite gonzo journalism but I think pretty close. It was then a large clump of snow came hurdling down and struck within the taped in area and exploded like an apache missile sending snow shrapnel in my direction.

I looked up and it was apparent what was happening. The architect clearly did not plan for the snow. Foolish and irresponsible, really. Everything is all in the details.

Let me explain.

My office building on Madison Avenue has a generous curve leading up to a 14th floor deck. From the 14th floor on the building straightens out and is perpendicular with the road. As the snow falls off the 14th floor deck it then hurdles down the ramp that is the curvature of the building and shuttles out into the splash zone.
I spent to long standing acting as a target for the snow. They don’t deserve that chance.

Anyway after finally arriving today it was apparent that I am the only person in the office. I turned on the lights, hung up my coat, and made myself a coffee. Sitting in my office sorting through emails, responding where appropriate, and turning on a copy of Rain Dogs by Tom Waits.

After a light lunch I turned to my bar and contemplated what I would make to drink. My home bar is meticulous arranged and plentiful. A cornucopia of vermouths, bitters, gins, scotch, rums, absinthes, velvet falernum, and most anything you could want. For late nights my bar in the office is appropriately stocked with miniature bottle versions of what I have at home.

Campari is an Italian vermouth with a deep, ruby red color and an appropriate amount of bitterness. The herbs in Campari and many types of vermouth are perfect for the aperitif. The aperitif is the first drink of the evening. It is how you should start not only a meal, but the night.

The aperitif is elegant. The aperitif is infinitely contemporary in its classicalness. The pre-dinner drink stimulates the appetite and conversations, what could be better. There is an implicit grace and civility in drinking with diligence and purpose. A traditional aperitif such as the Negroni is perfect. One drink is more than enough as you then venture on for a meal and have your pre dinner martini, followed by wine, followed by a glass of champagne with dessert, and a digestif.

The Negroni
• 2oz Plymouth Gin
• Slightly less than 2oz of Campari
• Slightly less than 2oz of Italian Vermouth (I enjoy Punt e Mes1 or a Rosso)

In a cocktail shaker pour all of the ingredients with a few ice cubes and stir gently. This melts a small part of the ice without diluting the drink. In a rocks glass chisel one large ice cube. Traditionally the Negroni is served with an orange but I prefer a lemon twist. Twist the lemon over the ice to release the natural oils and run along the rim of the glass. Pour the stirred ingredients over and serve. The large ice cube is perfect for the purpose of the aperitif as it does not dilute the drink but over the course of conversation where a drink may be neglected it will appropriately soften the drink.

Oh and here is some more of my novel/screenplay

I was not looking forward to going to India but I was surprised when I got there. Just the idea of how many shots you need and the malaria pills really upset me.

-I didn’t take any shots

You didn’t? And then you have to take Malaria pills too.

-Oh, I didn’t take mine

Well I didn’t take mine either but I at least had them with me. Michael took his the entire time and they gave him horrible nightmares.

- To be fair we did buy the pills on the street and the gentleman did inform us that the cheaper pills would give us nightmares.

And then at first you think that monkeys are so incredible and you see them up close, and then you start feeling competitive with the monkeys and you realize they don’t really have your best interest at heart.

1 Punt e Mes translates to "Point and a half," being about a point of sweetness and a half a point of bitterness. Halfway between Campari and Sweet Vermouth it is preferred for Negroni's adding a plesant savory bitterness

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

On Optimal Shaving Time, Extremes, and a perfectly imperfect Bloody Mary Recipe

Shaving is a ritual most men go through once or every other day. For some the process is quick and uninspiring and for others the usage of Penhaligon’s1
and a silver tipped badger brush makes much more sense. Shaving is a refined process steeped in process and diligence. Looking at my medicine cabinet and the array of shaving supplies it would be easy to think that I take shaving to an extreme2 point. To me shaving is a refined exercise that is both relaxing and elegant. Taking the thoughtful diligence in each activity, not matter how banal it may seem, is a quality I aspire too and try to respect.

No more than two days ago I was sitting in a bench taking in the lights from the Christmas tree at the Stuyvesant Town Oval where I got to thinking about optimal shaving time. This is of no doubt concern for me as my five o’clock shadow arrives at half past two and my night time stubble shows its face before the sun comes down.

There is a delicate balance then between what is acceptable for work, what is cool, and what is a scraggily mess.

To defined optimum shaving time we first need to define the optimal outcome. I’m going to choose to disregard work and focus on maximum time to being cool. Plotting against the standard CFFO (Coolness Form Factor from Optimal Shaving Time) some interesting results appear.

From the figure below we see that the optimal shave time is t-minus fifteen hours. This leaves a five hour window of that cool amount stubble. After that I begin to transform into what could be described as a very well dressed vagabond or drifter. After thirty six hours my beard begins to enter dangerous hipster related territory. Luckily I am well stocked with shave soap and a straight razor.

And now…

The Bloody Mary is a truly singular cocktail. The cocktail is almost always accompanied with excellent conversation.

In 1934 Fernand Petiot invented the Bloody Mary at the King Cole Bar5
at the venerable St. Regis Hotel. While there is little to no complexity in mixing tomato juice with vodka, the Bloody Mary becomes this personal experience as in its purest form is made to taste. “More Worcestershire sauce”, “lemon juice instead of lime juice if you please”, “pink sea salt on the rim.” Unlike most traditional cocktails steeped with history and precise parts, the Bloody Mary stands alone in being right when it is often wrong. What could be too spicy for some or most could be the perfect drink for someone else. The tangy taste of too much acid could be the well delivered wake up to your friend.

The Bloody Mary is peerless in its individuality.

What I present is an augmentation of a Bloody Mary I had at Eleven Madison Park and a portion of a meal I had at The Breslin. It’s quite good.

L'huître sanglante

To Make 1 Drink
• 3-4 Large Heirloom Tomatoes
• 3oz of Ketel One Vodka
• 1oz of fresh squeezed lime juice
• ¾ teaspoon of freshly grated horseradish
• 1 teaspoon of Tabasco
• 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce
• dash of fleur de sel
• dash of coarsely grinded black pepper
• ½ teaspoon of Mignonette sauce
• Mignonette sauce for garnish of oyster
• 1 Shibumi or Kumamoto oyster6

Pass the tomato through a potato ricer. This will give you a large amount of juice steeped with some pulp. Remove the large solids by passing the juice through a cocktail strainer or using a chinoise if you prefer a smoother juice. Refrigerate the juice for about an hour.

Place a highball glass in the freezer to chill. In a cocktail shaker add all of the ingredients and the chilled juice and gently stir. Adjust to your personal taste. Remove the highball glass and rim half of the glass with fleur de sel. Fill the glass halfway with ice. Pour the mixture over ice and garnish on top by placing one shucked oyster and a delicate strip of mignonette sauce.

1Penhaligon’s was the shave soap of choice by Winston Churchill. That was not by only determining factor in choosing Penhaligon’s, but it certainly did help.

2Annually American Express provides a summary detailing your purchases and your spending habits. It is a harrowing but necessary exercise to fully understand the often grim nature of the report. The eye is naturally drawn to the disproportionate size of the Restaurant/Bar column in the bar graph. Delving into the Restaurant/Bar column supported a key behavioral trait of mine, a proclivity for extremes.

My restaurant and bar tabs are often exorbitant or miniscule and largely back to back. Recounting many nights support that as I am wearing a suit at Eleven Madison Park and then wearing a suit at Mars Bar3. Both are excellent.

My ethos does not seem to support the common “moderation in moderation” mantra. Being moderately moderate sounds incredibly uninspiring. I greatly support being minimally moderate.

My being minimally moderate I often walk down the street with such thoughts as “why am I not on my way to trapeze school right now,” “at what height can you pour a gallon of water out and capture it all falling in one shot,” or “where does the J subway line even go.” I have the answer to at least two of those questions.

This focus and unrelenting desire to explore and understand everything has allowed me to hyper extend into many different tasks and activities. It has come to such a point where I have been forced to evaluate my time so much that it has forced new creativity to invent time saving devices and ways to accomplish my goals in proxy4.

3No less than three times at Mars bar has there been a seemingly dead corpse. Velvet Underground and Iggy Pop is always on the jukebox and a glass of gin is six dollars. Tonic available upon request.

4 http://capt-renault.blogspot.com/2010/12/on-exponential-art-number-59-vermillion.html

5The King Cole Bar is conveniently located two blocks from my office at 55th and 5th avenue. At the King Cole Bar it is ordered though as a Red Snapper. I prefer the Bloody Mary nomenclature.

6 My favorite. Extremely creamy with a nutty flavor

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Intentional Tourist

Here's a phenomenon I'm having trouble understanding: the 7:00am New York City tourist.

Lets start from the beginning. I walk from Grand Central1 to Herald Square2 every morning at around 8:30am. The path that I take allows me to steer clear of the onslaught of people from Penn Station, however I do walk right past the visitor's entrance to the Empire State Building.

On the entire block in front of the Empire State, there are groups of people offering discounted tickets on bundled bus tours and trips to the top. I don't know who's who, but we've got the Red Jackets, the Yellow Jackets, and the Blue Jackets. They're legit, mainly because they don't hustle me.
What I question though, is their need to be there. The thing is, these guys are busy as shit when I walk past them. They're pitching, signing people up, and just doing their thing. And I get that part, it's supply and demand. There is a healthy supply of tourists who need to do touristy things, so there are going to be several company reps trying to solicit them.

But why the hell do the tourists need to be there in the first place, at 8:30am?! Yes, there's a lot to do in the Big Apple, and you really want to take it all in, especially when you're from Gas, Kansas (pop 554)3, but there is still no reason why you can't get going after 10:00. I just don't understand how there could be so many people willingly awake at that hour during their vacation.
For one, tourists walk wrong. If you want to be out and about during rush hour, please follow these commonsense maxims:
  • Rule Number 1: If there are no cars coming, do not wait for the light to change. Just fucking walk!
  • Rule Number 2: When it's flashing "Don't Walk", what the sign is really telling you is hurry the fuck up! As long as that shit is blinking, you better keep moving.
  • Rule Number 3: Do not stand at a busy street corner and try and figure out where you are. Please do that from the safety of standing out of the main flow of pedestrian traffic.
So you know what, walk wrong, I don't give a shit. Just wait until after I've gotten coffee and gotten to work.

For two, nobody's happy at 8:30. And its because it's too fucking early. And because you can't afford to stay in midtown, you had to wake up at like 7:00 to get the kids up, shower, get to breakfast, take a cab (because you were told the subway is dangerous), and eat breakfast--all before you had the privilege to get swindled by Mr. Yellow Jacket.

At this rate, by the time you see the Lion King, you're already exhausted, and then you miss out on that fantastic dinner at Applebee's in Times Square because you're too tired. Start later! New York is much cooler at 8:00pm than 8:00am. Sleep in, go out late, make bad decisions. You'll come back having had a much better time than you would plowing into me because you're not following the aforementioned rules of walking on the fucking street.

In conclusion, let those poor guys in the multicolored coats sleep in for a little while. You'll make everyone much more happy.

1 Grand Central
2 Herald Square
3 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gas,_Kansas