Friday, November 13, 2009

Not a "Bad Idea"

Four or so drinks in one weekday evening, I said to Lance one evening, "Would you like a bad idea?"

"What's a 'bad idea,'?" he inquired as I began mixing an entire pitcher of Rob Roy.

"A 'bad idea'," I explained, "Is that last drink you have before bed."

"Does it have alcohol in it?"


"Then yesss."

"For example, this pitcher of Rob Roy." I continued "Inevitably, I will wake up tomorrow and say 'Ughhh.. that Rob Roy was a bad idea."

I've mastered the art since of avoiding the "bad idea." Instead, I've become interested recently in the application of fortified wine in cocktail form. Semi-innocuous and certainly less potent than other cocktails -- equally complex and enjoyable.

Bereft of ingredients necessary to make a trule classic port or sherry cocktail, I offer this substitute which I improvised this evening.

'Stacheville Rose
2oz. port
0.25oz. grenadine
0.25oz. orange juice

Shake the first three as hard as you can in a shaker filled with cracked ice. Strain into tall ice-filled glass and top with gingerale.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Vox Toddy

My new band, Matt Stache and the Public Option, is my first experience as the only frontman for a band. That is to say, in the past, I've shared the role as lead singer. As a result, I've been spending long practices as the only person singing and doing so with no relief.

We have a show this Friday at Bird's Aphrodisiac Oyster Shack, and I'm starting to feel a bit of scratchiness in my throat. I'm not sure if it's the crud that has been going around or whether I'm simply experiencing vocal fatigue, but I'm not experiencing any secondary symptoms.

What follows is my own recipe for vocal-chord-soothing tea. Use green tea if you're planning on staying awake for a bit, use chamomile if you're planning on sleeping within a few hours.

1 teabag of the desired tea
4oz. of hot water (not quite boiling, of course)
1oz. of coconut rum (NOT optional)
1 tsp. local honey
Zest and juice of 1/4 of a lemon

In an appropriately sized mug, combine rum, honey and lemon juice. Place the zest in a teaball and drop into mug with teabag. Add hot water, steep 3 minutes and enjoy.

My Band Dad offers this advice pre-stage. Despite what any classically trained vocalist will tell you, hot coffee and alcohol are not bad for your vocal chords before singing. For the perfect rock singer preparation, drink a hot cup of black coffee 30 minutes before stage and follow it up with a cold draft beer immediately before your performance.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Mustache - Reactions

While I have received many shocked and dismayed reactions over the past few days to my announcement of my 'stache-removal, I've been certain to assure people that it is only for the good of my mustache to allow it a full regrowth and to spend some time apart from each other in the interim.

In anticipation of its removal, I have let the mustache grow to epic proportions. I went from sporting a subtle English-style mustache to a full-blown Salvador Dali-style 'stache. It is definitely a topic of conversation, good or bad.

What interests me most in people's reactions to my mustache are two negative reactions that befuddle me.

The first, I've heard many times, and I'm amused with only a slight twinge of dismay. "Wow! I'd love to grow a mustache like that, but my wife would never let me." or "I used to have a mustache, but my girlfriend made me shave it off."

My kneejerk response has always been to uncontrollably blurt out, "Perhaps you should get a new girlfriend/wife." The fact is the man or woman (depending on your preference) who is the right one for any given man or woman will be the one that accepts them completely as they are. I realize that relationships involve give and take and compromise, but one should seek out a mate that is compatible with one's eccentricities. That is why I always say that any woman who dates me must not simply "tolerate" my mustache, she must LOVE my mustache.

Tolerance and love are two different things. You tolerate a crying child, you love your mate.

I think I heard that on a sitcom.

The other negative mustache response I've received comes in various degrees and is sometime not negative at all. That is, occasionally, while shopping at Wal-Mart a group of kids, 'tweens, teens or other ruffians will pass by me and giggle. I don't consider that negative at all; I grew this mustache to be different and unique, and it is incredibly hypocritical to expect people to accept it and not giggle. In fact, giggling at my mustache is a fantastic response! I always smile to myself, knowing that I've brightened someone's day.

I've even caught people doing double-takes or coming back around an aisle conspicuously for another glance. I usually ignore them to allow them the the illusion that they are being sly and unnoticed. This happened several times last night.

When this turns negative is when it makes me feel like I'm in high school again and the target of abject undeserved ridicule. It's one thing to yell "Nice 'stache!" as I pass or something similar, but it's something entirely different to call out "Hey freak!" It's genuinely impolite. This happened last week at the mall, and I'm curious as to what the young man's reaction would have been had I turned around, strode up to him and said "Yes?"

The most extreme form of this happened last night at Wal-Mart. A group of teen girls in rather urban attire were hanging out between the checkout lines and the front door. As I was ringing up my grocies at the self-checkout, they were giggling and pointing at me in a "Look at that!"-manner rather than a "Hey! Nice 'stache!"-manner. As I passed, one of them broke from the pack and ran up behind me. Without saying a word at all to engage me socially, she stepped on the heel of my shoe and ran back to her group.

The only saving grace was that she missed my shoe so woefully that I was able to simply pretend I didn't notice and continue on my way. Had it been more noticeable, I'd have had to turn around and summon up some appropriate inquisitive reaction such as, "Seriously, what the fuck? Honestly, who steps on a shoe?"

The physical contact didn't necessarily upset me, but it confused me in an upsetting manner. Can you justify stepping on the heel of someone's shoe simply because they look different? Even if looking different is intentional and for the purpose of attracting attention, can you reason the need to physically contact that person in a negative manner? The guards at Buckingham Palace are rather stoic to all forms of verbal taunting, but if you honk their nose, they will beat the ever-loving-dogshit out of you.

I said all this simply to document it for entertainment purposes. Overwhelmingly, 99.9% of the comments my mustache draws are wonderfully positive and amusing. I am very much looking forward to re-growing my 'stache and enjoying the comments it draws in the future.

I'll leave you with this anecdote: A month ago, I walked into a tattoo and piercing shop to visit a friend and have a couple piercings done. The owner of the shop exclaimed, "Is that mustache real!? That is the CRAAAZZZIEST thing I've EVER seen!!!"

To which I replied, "Really? And what exactly is your basis of comparison?"

The Mustache - New Beginnings

The one thing I regret daily when looking in the mirror is that I did not have an opportunity to document the growth of my mustache. Lance often photographs or videos amusing or defining moments in my life, but he was busy fighting George's War while I was busy growing my 'stache.

The other thing I regret, perhaps weekly, is that I didn't have a clue what I was doing when I initially grew my mustache, and an ill-performed undercut left it somewhat irreparably asymmetrical in a manner only perceivable to myself and someone otherwise intimately familiar with my facial hair.

They say that if you love something, you should let it go. If it comes back to you, it was meant to be. As much as I hate speaking in cliches (I'd rather stab myself in the eye with a grapefruit spoon than use a cliche), this is what is the destiny of the 'stache. I'm not getting rid of it, per se, I'm merely letting it grow again to it's full potential. I will not be without 'stache, it will merely be hiding beneath the surface of my upper lip until it returns to it's full glory.

It should probably take two to three months before my mustache has reappeared in any recognizable form, and I'm sure there will be a couple weeks when it is too short to wax, but too long to leave unwaxed. Waxing it at this point will leave me looking like Peter Sellers in Dr. Strangelove (as Mandrake. Did you know he played Mandrake as well?).

The decided date for the trim is tomorrow morning after my Saturday evening festivities. I will be documenting the whole process and monologging unnecessarily throughout.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Grilled Chicken Leg Quarters

Barbecuing is an artform, but those of us with basic LP grills can't quite claim to be grill artists or cullinary masters of the flame. It's still good to know how to make decent grilled chicken easily.

The Scot in me comes out occasionally and I'm drawn to good deals. I found a great deal on a ten pound bag of chicken leg quarters the other day and threw them in my freezer. This is lesson one: separate those damn things before you freeze them -- especially if you intend on cooking them one at a time like a proper stag.

Chicken leg quarters are huge, intimidating to work with and have a bone or three in them. They are certainly not as easy to care and feed as chicken cutlets or even chicken breasts. I attempted to cook two immediately and managed to catch my grill on fire. A subsequent consultation with a co-worker cleared up my error.

To cook chicken leg quarters, do the following:

Marinate appropriately. Barbecue? Garlic and lime? Follow the instructions or make up your own instructions.

Fire up both sides of the grill until it is thermonuclearly hot (this is assuming you have a two-sided LP grill).

Turn off the left side, throw the quarters on the left side (leaving the right side on high), close the lid and wait 20 minutes. Flip the quarters, leaving them on the left side, grill for another 20 minutes with the lid down. Put the right side on low and transfer the quarters to that side for about ten minutes a side.

Those are the basic guidelines; work with the timing based on the variation of your grill. All in all, you're a grown person and should know how to tell when chicken is fully cooked. If you separate the leg from the thigh and still see pink or red or blood. Toss it back on the grill for a bit.

Green Tea Plum Wine Cooler

This recipe was half-created from a mythical world beverage that was once (and may periodically still be) available at EPCOT and half-created from a chilled version of a throat-soothing home remedy given me by the bassist of my former band Monte Carlo Method.

You'll need four green tea bags, honey, sugar, a bottle of Chinese plum wine, a bottle of coconut rum, water and ice. Hardware includes measuring implements, a tea kettle or appropriate saucepan, and a decent sized glass iced-tea pitcher.

First, how to make iced tea fast. In general, take your final vessel half-full with ice and water. If you intend on making 8 cups of tea, fill your pitcher with 8 cups of ice and water. This can be achieved by four times filling a two-cup measuring cup first with ice, then topping it off with water until the ice barely floats. Surprise! Two instant cups of ice water. Use twice as many tea bags per cup of boiling water, steep appropriately, sweeten and then add the hot double-strength, double-sweet tea to the ice water pitcher. The tea is cooled to roughly room temperature and may then be served over ice.

Using this formula to make the cooler, do the following.

Boil two cups of water, steep four green tea bags, adding two teaspoons of sugar and two teaspoons of honey (I use regional orange blossom honey). After steeping the tea, add to two cups of ice water in your pitcher. Add four cups of Chinese plum wine and one cup of coconut rum. Serve over ice.

Funny. It took longer to explain how to make sweet iced tea than it did to explain the cooler.

Beware, as with most tea, green tea contains caffeine. This is the reason I am awake at 12:45am writing a beverage blog.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Chilled Black Bean and Corn Salad

This is a recipe based on reverse-engineering one of my mother's recipes. It goes great with both Cuban, Mexican and faux-Island-style food. I made two pounds of beer-steamed shrimp yesterday and served them with this salad. It's quick and easy, and comes from cans for the most part.

Chilled Black Bean and Corn Salad
2 cans black beans
2 cans fiesta-style corn
2 cans Rotel mild diced tomatoes with lime juice and cilantro
half a chopped onion (or more.. or green onion if you prefer)

Use one-half cup of the dressing per the recipe above. The recipe for the dressing below does not come out to half a cup, so you may have some leftover. Whisk thoroughly to combine.

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 tbsp basalmic vinegar
2 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp cilantro paste (in the produce section!)
2 tbsp lime juice
garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste

To prepare the salad, drain all of the cans, put the contents into a collander and rinse thoroughly (this is very important!). Toss the ingredients into a big glass serving bowl, add dressing and chill in the fridge.

In Praise of Bacon

What most people would call a "health nut," but I prefer to think of myself as simply "healthy." In fact, those people who call me a "health nut," I prefer to call "obese."

This blog isn't a rant and rave about weightloss and healthy eating, but I preface it with two things. One, you can't get healthy and in shape if you're eating garbage. Period. And two, if you're not healthy and in shape, there is a 90% chance that it is entirely related to you eating too much garbage. Don't try to argue it, I know at least two people that have shed 70lbs. in less than a year, and one of them was myself.

On a lighter note though, bacon. Bacon, like other recreational drugs, should be used in extreme moderation, but when used can be a very, very handy thing. In the last year or so, I've tried to keep a bit of bacon (whether in strip or slab form) in the fridge at all times in case there was a need for a special weekend breakfast. If you know what you're doing, it's pretty hard to mess up a good plate of bacon and eggs (add some salsa or pasta sauce and you've got an extra exotic offering that perpetuates the illusion that you went to culinary school).

I like bacon. I don't love bacon. I would be hard pressed to ever say "Gosh, this sandwich, pizza, salad or cake needs some bacon on it," and I'm not the kind of person that wakes up on Saturday morning and makes twelve slices of bacon with which to plop down in front of the television, but bacon has a two-fold purpose.

Flavor. This is self explanatory, and a little bacon (if its good quality) goes a long way for adding flavor to cooking. I don't think I need to go on much further.

In addition to flavor, the second wonderful side-effect of bacon is lubrication. Bacon yields up the second best natural lubricant that I've ever encountered. I've never had an omelet stick to a pan after cooking up some bacon. I've made maddening fried eggs with bacon grease, and cooking spinach in bacon grease is divine.

But what do you do with the grease when you're done? Pour it down the sink!? NO!!!

I make it a habit to save half of my bacon grease before I throw anything else in the pan by pouring the excess into a little plastic container I keep in the fridge. This leftover bacon grease can be used to grill up the best grilled cheese sandwiches you've ever had. (Serve with tomato soup, please).

Now you know why I like bacon. An oft over-indulged and misunderstood vice. Meanwhile, I've got to get outside and get some exercise to burn off this bacon.

Friday, March 20, 2009


This will be a quick blog for my reference and be expanded later. What do you need to know beforehand? I'm making "presidente" margaritas with homemade orange-infused brandy, blue curacao and sweetened lime juice.

I've worked on this recipe for several weeks and finally came up with one that yields a pleasant, but challenging flavor, relatively pleasing color and a decent kick.

When serving this drink to small groups of guests (3 or fewer) the proportions are as follows:
4 parts tequila
2 parts orange brandy
2 parts bluecuracao
4 parts lime juice
3 parts simple syrup

I double the mixer portion when creating for larger groups. Not because I'm cheap and trying to save liquor, but because I don't need a bunch of rowdy people, drunk on tequila in my house. Mixer is so much more of a pain than dealing with liquor.

The large group recipe is roughly converted to English from metric (liquor bottles are metric/my drinking habit is English) for a 3 gallon quantity:
8 cups tequila
4 cups orange brandy
4 cups blue curacao
16 cups lime juice
16 cups simple syrup

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Pizza Omelet

I'm a big fan of omelets. For the last eight months or so, every Saturday and Sunday morning, I make myself a healthy serving of French press coffee and an omelet. I figure this is an important life skill.

Here is the scenario: you find yourself at 10:30am the morning after a bender that started with some sort of Italian dinner. You're not entirely certain what you had for dinner or for drink, and if there is someone next to you in bed, you may or may not know her name. Hopefully, over breakfast, this is all information you can divine.

As a bit of an aside to the young ladies reading this. If a young man makes you breakfast in the morning, he's probably a keeper. Even a gentleman knows how to gracefully part ways with an undesired paramour in the morning before even a glass of water is offered, but breakfast is another story entirely.

To resume our story, in your possession is half a pack of pepperoni, a half dozen eggs, some random bits and pieces at the bottom of an otherwise empty jar of banana peppers, a nearly-gone bag of shredded (2% please) mozzarella cheese and some leftover marinara. There may have been either pizza, a strange baked pasta dish, or simply minestrone souper rice the night before, but you've got all the ammunition you need.

Pizza Omelet
2 eggs (beaten like a red-headed stepchild)
half a dozen pepperoni (diced up)
2 or 3 banana pepper rings (or more if you're like me)
handful of shredded mozzarella
handful of fresh (albeit leftover) baby spinach

In a small non-stick pan, crisp up the pepperoni and banana peppers and set aside. Make an omelet. Seriously. Do I have to tell you how to make an omelet? There are instructions somewhere on the web, and I'm sure Alton Brown and Emeril Lagasse would be more than happy to tell you the right way to do it.

At the end of it all, plate the omelet, add a drizzle of marinara, a dash of hot sauce and a splash of basalmic vinegar, serve with garlic toast and a bloody mary.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

On Losing Gracefully

It may not seem to be common amongst the gentry to lose at anything, but I'm a firm believer that everyone either loses at something or fails to attempt to ever win at anything. Those who appear to be winning all the time are doing one of two things.

A) Not accepting any challenge that they are not confident they can succeed at


B) Losing gracefully.

I love billiards. I'm not good at it even remotely, but I bought a pool table last weekend because I enjoy it so much. My friends may even say I'm a decent player, or that I've won a game or two against them, but that would be a little bit more than somewhat innaccurate.

Everyone is well aware in the game of eight-ball that scratching on the eight ball or sinking the eight ball out of turn constitues loss. While I'm not at all unfamiliar with being on the perpetrating end of such losses, I've more often than not been on the receiving end of victories based on these rules.

That is to say, the only games of eight-ball I can really recall winning involved someone else fucking up.

I won my first legitimate game of eight-ball against my roommate last week. I believe I may or may not have won a second game, but there was alot of Canadian Club involved in the equation and my memory is fuzzy beyond the point that I recall crying out "That was the first game of eight ball that I've ever won legitimately!"

I much prefer nine-ball, or (when paying per rack) six-ball because you can always clean up and win after your opponent has done the rest of the work for you previously.

I say all this to say that losing gracefully involves more than just being a good sport and not a sore loser. We learn all of this in kindergarten, and it still astounds me to this day how many grown adults act like children when confronted with both victory and loss. It's not even about "getting back on that horse."

The most important thing about losing gracefully is learning how to lose. Learning how to "give it the old college try," and standing up to challenges that seem ridiculously difficult.

Another good example of this occurred during the purchase of my pool table. My roommate, Lance, and I went to Sports Authority (I usually don't name names, but the salespeople went above and beyond the call of duty delivering my pool table. That is another story entirely).

Whilst waiting for the sales associate to check if the pool table I wanted was in stock, Lance and I wandered over to the weights section of the store. Mind you, there's a bench press in my garage and I see no further need of weights beyond my 25lb. hand-weights; I can bust out 35 military-grade push-ups (albeit on my knuckles.. personal preference) in one set and can do crunches until I lose track of what number I was on, but I was curious about getting a pull-up bar.

It's good to balance any workout, and pull-ups (at least to me) seem to be the antithesis of push-ups. I grabbed a pull-up bar and found that, despite my proficiency at push-ups, I could only do one. Lamenting this, I exclaimed, "Well, I guess I should wait on buying that pull-up bar."

It was then that Lance said something profound. I've forgotten the exact wording, but the meaning was profound enough for me to absolutely butcher the syntax and still deliver a decent bit of advice:

To do pull-ups, you only need to be able to do one pull-up. After you can do one pull-up, you can do pull-ups. It may take weeks and weeks of trying, but eventually you'll do two or maybe three. There's no reason to not do pull-ups simply because you can only do one.

The advice could be taken further and more deeply into abstract warm-fuzzies to say that if you can only do one pull-up, you should make it the best pull-up you can do, but that goes without saying. Everything you do should ALWAYS be the best you can do, otherwise you're just half-assing it and wasting your own time and energy.

The second most important thing about losing is to not advertise it. I'm not telling you to deny that you've ever lost, but simply don't announce it to the world. This is somewhat analogous to the school-yard advice to not be a sore loser, but it takes it a step further. I was taught long ago, that when you miss a note while playing in a band, don't make a face or apologize. It may be that no one noticed in the first place; if you make a face, everyone will realize that you screwed up.

Competitive point-sparring is a good example of this. It is incredibly subjective and largely arbitrary in the three- and five-point style rounds, but when struck by an opponent, one should NOT stop fighting until the judges call "break" or "yame." If you continue fighting even after struck, there is a chance that you could land an even more visible point on your opponent; this gives some likelihood that the judges will not notice your opponent's point and award you the point instead. If you DO stop fighting immediately upon your opponent landing a point, it is incredibly likely that the judges will award your opponent the point, even if they didn't actually see the point land. You essentially admitted defeat when it may or may not have been necessary.

To bookend this with my billiard story. Most of my friends, (save the ones that have repeatedly seen me jump the cue ball off the table) don't realize how truly awful I am at the game. Simply because I never turn down a challenge, I enjoy the game whether I win or lose, and I make sure they drink heavily so they will have little memory the next day of my astounding defeat.

To summarize: lose, lose early, lose often and get used to losing. It will make winning occasionally that much more enjoyable.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Stache's Greens

It's a new year, and it was instilled in me as a young southern gentleman that it is important to ingest several key substances between midnight on New Year's Eve and midnight on New Year's Day (aside from massive quantities of Champagne or sparkling wine). Two of these important edibles are greens and black-eyed peas.

A traditional southern New Year's Day dinner/supper consists of ham, black-eyed peas and greens cooked with hog jowl. In this region, the latter is pronounced so as to rhyme with "y'all" and not "towel." My recipe for greens follows:

1/4lb. hog jowl or a half dozen nice thick slices
2 - 3 slices of thick pepper bacon
2 12oz. bottles of beer (lager, not ale)
1lb. of greens (turnip, collard, mustard... your choice)
3 tbsp pepper vinegar (homemade is best)
2 tbsp red pepper flakes
2 tbsp garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste

The most important thing about greens is to wash them thoroughly. Tear the greens into slightly-larger-than-bite-sized pieces. Greens of all sorts wilt when cooking.

In the bottom of a big enamel pot, cook the bacon and hog jowl until they have given up their grease and are nice and crispy. Deglaze using the two beers, and add the spices and pepper vinegar. Once the "pot liquor" has come to a gentle boil, add the greens, put a lid on it and cut the heat back to medium low. Simmer for 45 minutes or so.