Saturday, July 30, 2011

Blues BBQ

Inside Blues BBQ and a peek at their pressure smoker.

According to what I've read, Blues BBQ is the best bbq in Charleston. But read through the reviews and the comments and a bit of a controversy erupts. Evidently, Blues BBQ pressure cooks their ribs. To bbq purists this is akin to an uncircumsized Semite running through 1942 Berlin wearing a pig meat outfit.

Putting that controversy to the side, I decided to check out Blues - especially since one of the commenters assured that Blues was not pressure cooking their ribs. As for myself, I'm a firm believer in wood smoked bbq but I certainly can appreciate the virtues of boiled ribs (looking at you The Corner Stable in Cockeysville, MD) - though stating that might be grounds for the KCBS to revoke my BBQ Judge status.

Samples of their Williamsburg and Blues style pulled pork.

Located in a simple building on Jefferson Road outside of South Charleston, it's easy to drive past Blues without noticing but once inside, it's true bbq style. Inside, Blues is old and a bit worn and rundown. Formica booths and old posters share the patina of wear that's reassuring in a bbq joint. There's even a large ice cream dipping cabinet sitting in the middle of the seating area. Odd and disjointed, it's kind of what bbq joints are all about. Fancy dining this place ain't.

The lady with the black hair is friendly and takes me on a tasting tour of the two types of pulled pork they offer. There's the original Blues pulled pork that's sweeter with hints of molasses, then there's the Williamsburg style that's acidic and vinegary with some spice. There's also two choices of cole slaw - a sweeter one with mayo and a spicy, vinegar based without mayo. While I like the Williamsburg style better on its own, I decide on the Blues style to balance out the vinegary spice of the non-mayo cole slaw for the pulled pork sandwich.

The pulled pork sandwich with baked beans and spicy cole slaw.

BBQ purists desire to shame all those who disagree (or merely have different) with their viewpoints and preferences. So rabid these purists can be that I'm surprised they aren't protesting outside Blues door. Inside, the very nice lady is more than happy and proud about how they cook their bbq: it's pressure smoked and she's happy to point out the pressure smoker that's in plain sight from the front counter.

A little Internet research showed that a small box of wood chips is placed in the bottom of the pressure chamber, then the meat is hung inside the chamber before being sealed and cooked under pressure. It's kind of weird to think about but I'm open to different as long as its good. The lady is proud of her cooker but it looks small to me and I wonder how many ribs they can cook. Four at a time and it takes just over an hour to cook.

Inside the pulled pork sandwich.

I think back to my summer making commercial bbq and four at a time seems like lunacy. You'd kill yourself trying to produce enough ribs when you can only do four at a time. Of course, it only takes about an hour and in the time that it would take me to smoke ribs the traditional way, you could run 16-20 racks in the pressure smoker.

The people at Blues BBQ are so friendly that it's no wonder they've been in business for ten years and have gone through three pressure smokers. I depart with a large bag stuffed with ribs, pulled pork, cole slaw, baked beans and fries for a late afternoon meal at the hotel.

A rack of ribs with dinner rolls.

I find the pulled pork to be very tasty. Deep, dark and lusty, I note spices, hints of dark chocolate and sweet molasses that's contrasted brilliantly by the spicy cole slaw. The sesame seed bun is soft and chewy. The baked beans are more of the same. Deep, smoky and molasses sweet. I like.

My brother is a big fan of the boiled style of ribs. Tender and falling off the bone is his style of ribs and he would be a big fan of the Blues rib. Fork tender and falling off the bone, you could easily suck the meat down Extremely tender and bathed in a sweet bbq sauce, I found the ribs to be a bit lacking.

Closeup with the pressure smoked ribs.

As much as I may try, I guess deep down inside, I'm a wood smoked rib lover. My palate is searching for that deep luster of wood flavor but can't find it. Visually, I'd like to see that reddish smoke ring but instead find an even color of pork grey under the sauce. The pressure smoker may add smoke but even under pressure, with such a short exposure time, it seems that the meat doesn't have enough time to meld its flavors with the smoke.

Where I would hope to find depth and complexity, the ribs come up short. I'm hoping for complex ribs but they're a bit one dimensional. I wonder if bathing the ribs in bbq sauce then charring them on the grill would develop greater complexity and that sugary Maillard reaction that might give these ribs that extra ooomph.

Of course, Blues has been around ten years and is very popular with the locals. The staff is very friendly and welcoming and the pulled pork is certainly worth the effort.

Blues BBQ
1109 Jefferson Road
South Charleston, WV 25309-9780
(304) 744-8335

Bridge Road Bistro

Sesame Fried Calamari - tossed in spicy sesame garlic sauce.

The difficult part of visiting any city is finding someplace good to eat. Truth be told, I'm really just like everyone else - I'm scared of finding something bad. This is the same mentality that drives the masses to eat at Applebee's, Cheesecake Factory, Panera Bread and Burger King, no matter where they are in the world.

With the advent of the Internet, we now have resources like Yelp!, Urbanspoon and the like to help guide us. The biggest problem of these sites and their reviews is the same as following any critic - it takes awhile to learn if your tastes are in line with those of the reviewer. And the real threat with Urbanspoon and Yelp is that they could be populated by people with more, say pedestrian aka "normal", tastes.

Classic Caesar - hearts of romaine, garlic crostini, aged parmesan, oven roasted tomatoes.

Because of this, it's difficult to accurately gauge which place is great and which isn't. Even in my own hometown of Baltimore the top ten listings aren't the typical places I find on my regular dining retinue. But we have to try.

Pluses and minuses, I decided to give Bridge Road Bistro a try. A peek at their website suggests that farm-to-table kind of mentality and their Urbanspoon writeups run sporadic. Situated in what seems to be the "nicer" part of Charleston: South Hills, the bistro is known for okay food and high prices. In retrospect, I'm starting to wonder what possessed me to try the place.

The bistro is located in a relatively non-descript building in the heart of the Bridge Road shopping district. Reading about the area, I expected some sort of expansive shopping road, probably at least a half-mile long bustling with shops and activity. The reality is that it's about 200 yards of shops in a relatively sleepy, suburban setting.

Fried Green Tomato BLT - apple smoked bacon, lettuce, roasted garlic mayo, toasted sourdough.

We arrived around 11:30 in the morning and the place was almost empty. It's a Saturday and they're offering a breakfast buffet. And it's nearly empty. Maybe that should tell us something.

So much of the hoopla online about the bistro talks about how expensive it is, how fine dining they're trying to be, giving me the impression that this is going to be some fancy place where I might feel a little out of place wearing shorts and a t-shirt (it is a Ralph Lauren Polo t-shirt though). Not in the least. The bistro strikes me as a fancy clad Denny's. Rows of booth seating clad in wood with muted color schemes make it slightly upscale but it still feels very much like a diner, with lovely wood tabletops.

And how truly lovely those tabletops are. Solid wood tables in a deep, thick lacquer really were my favorite decor detail. Otherwise, the bar is about the only section in the place that kind of lives up to the hype with it's wood chairs and tables. Had they done the entire restaurant like that it would have truly given the place an upscale edge.

Inside with the fried green tomatoes.

I have to admit, I was a bit off put by the decor. I was expecting something thought out, not a nicer version of Denny's. Then there was the menu. Decent, if uninspired offerings. I usually don't do this, but I ended up quizzing our very nice server about some details. Is the calamari fresh or frozen? Delivered every other day. Are the fries battered? No, they're made here.

To my eye, the only interesting item on the menu was the Fried Green Tomato BLT. Something probably locally sourced, fresh and light. We decided on the calamari, caesar salad and the BLT.

I really want to rave about the places I visit. I really do. But this time, I just can't. The food was typical and perfunctory. The calamari was thickly battered and covered in a sticky sweet sauce with a hint of spice. The caesar salad was on the bland side and just average. So far, the best part of the meal was our servers friendliness and the iced tea.

The Other Half.

I was holding out hope for the BLT. When it arrived it looked promising. Nicely toasted sourdough bread, a cup of cole slaw, a wedge of pickle and some fries. The pickle was soft and lacked crisp. The cole slaw could have been really good but lacked the acid to punch it up and salt to pronounce its flavor. Then there was the fries.

I certainly hope that our server was simply mistaken that the fries were made in-house because homemade fries these were not. Frozen, commercial with skins - yes. Freshly made? No way. In fact, with a little time I could probably find the Simplot product number.

As for the BLT, it was pretty good. Definitely the highlight of the meal. Crispy bacon piled high with slightly greasy fried green tomatoes and lettuce. Quite enjoyable. Add the chewy interior texture and crusty crust of the bread and it was darn good. The biggest problem was the other half. A nearly empty restaurant and the bacon and tomatoes are lopsided onto one half of the sandwich? Obviously the kitchen is not paying attention to the details.

I wish I could rave about Bridge Road Bistro, but I can't. Sadly, they're not really trying to give a reason to rave, they're just going by the numbers, and maybe that's good enough for The South Hills, but it's a darn shame.

Bridge Road Bistro
915 Bridge Road
Charleston, WV 25314

Friday, July 29, 2011

Tasting Charleston

House Salad with Strawberry Vinaigrette at Bluegrass Kitchen.

Charleston, West Virginia. I never thought I would come here. Nothing against the city, it just was never on my list of places to visit though I must say that there's a certain charm to this place. Walking downtown, the old buildings look cool and I'm tempted to put a Spro here.

Of course, there's lots of vacant shopfronts in downtown Charleston, attesting to its struggle to attract more people to city life. According to Tom hanging out at The Squire, Charleston's population of 50,000 swells to 150,000 during the day. Sounds like a lot until you realize that Baltimore's population is just under a million.

Rueben Kincaid - house cured West Virginia beef brisket with sauerkraut, swiss cheese and Sputnik dressing.

Still, finding parking in Charleston is not easy. They don't have enough. Sure, they've got great looking brick paved sidewalks and streets but the parking is precious and I circle a few times to land a spot in front of Taylor's Books where I've been seduced by the clearance book section and have loaded up on cooking tomes.

But before that, I was enjoying lunch at the Bluegrass Kitchen. One of those progressive, locally sourced kind of places with the church pews, sort of remnant furniture and tasty grub. Fresh greens for a nice salad and house cured pastrami with a spicy dressing made for a very good reuben.

Peanut Butter Brownie and Coconut ice cream from Ellen's Homemade Ice Cream.

Like most places, Charleston is national food chain Hell. Turn in any direction and you'll find the typical chain places. The big news in food here? Panera Bread recently opened at the Towne Center Mall. Brilliant. Not. And like most places, you have to seek out the different and the tasty. And I'm hoping to seek some of that out while here this weekend.

Next stop: Ellen's Homemade Ice Cream. Initially, I was thinking that I might jump in the car and charge up to Columbus to find out what the hype surrounding Jeni's Ice Cream is all about. Only to find out from google maps that it's a three-hour drive. Forget Jeni, Hello Ellen.

A nice cigar at The Squire.

Capitol Street seems to be the right place today. Across from Taylor Books is Ellen's, a quaint ice cream joint that makes everything in-house. She's got a standard selection of ice creams, as well as light fare and a coffee menu. I'm here strictly for the ice cream and order coconut with the day's special PB Brownie.

The Peanut Butter Brownie is just right. Creamy peanut butter and frozen bits of brownie. Very nice. The coconut has shaved pieces mixed in and is light and creamy. Not quite the coconut at Les Halles but pretty good. For some reason, I ordered the large ice cream, ate it all and felt a bit ill afterwards. In reality, I probably should have ordered a milkshake. Oh well, there's always tomorrow.

The Planters brand Royal peanut roaster at The Peanut Shoppe.

While Taylor's and Ellen's offer coffee and espresso drinks and the venerable Capital Roasting is just around the corner, I decide against buying coffee. It's not that I'm some sort of coffee snob (okay, well, maybe) but I'm just scared of drinking bad coffee and the tell tale signs tell me to avoid.

Next stop is The Squire, the local tobacconist who's been here since 1993 and boasts the largest humidor in Charleston and perhaps West Virginia. They've got a nice selection and offer a number of cigars that I like and others that I have not seen before. I chose an Alec Bradley SCR lancero that's got some spice and good flavor but the roll is off, the center is soft and goes out continuously during the last half.

Earlier I had spotted The Peanut Shoppe as I was walking by paying my meter. By the way, if you do visit Charleston, be sure to pay your meter on time. The meter maid patrols every 15 minutes and is only too eager to write you a ticket. Someone's gotta pay for the deficit and they want it to be you.

What had caught my eye about The Peanut Shoppe was the 25 pound Planters brand peanut drum roaster in the store. It looks like and probably is an old Royal roaster and they still use it to roast their nuts. Average roast time: 30 minutes though when the crop gets old, say around August/September, the moisture has decreased and the roast time is quicker. All kinds of salted nuts, candies, popcorn and more from this decidedly old school peanut shop. Even the bags have that Old School look.

From there, it's a swing through the Towne Center Mall that looks straight out of the 1980s and reminds me of the old Hunt Valley Mall. There's a Taco Bell and I think about grabbing a crunchy ground mystery beef taco. That or the soft serve ice cream with crispy chocolate shell at the Dairy Queen.

A 3W Kind Of Opening?

Someday someone will welcome guests to this place.

I've been in the coffee game since the rough dawn of the "third wave" and I've heard all sorts of stories about baristas and their shops pissing off and offending customers of all kinds. However, what I haven't seen before is a shop that pisses off their customers before it opens.

I'm in Charleston, West Virginia this weekend and was fully prepared not to find any sort of serious coffee until I started searching Barista Exchange and found my way to the facebook page of a shop called Moxxee Coffee. With an interesting blue logo that looks to be inspired by Kaldi the dancing goat, the facebook page sports an address and hours of operation but no phone number and a website address that doesn't exist (yet).

The photos on the facebook page show the Moxxee people giving demonstrations, going to SCAA Anaheim and some build out details. All in all, the facebook pages gives the impression of an operational shop that's making 3W style coffee beverages.

Someday people will sit here.

Then you do a google search and you find one Charlestonian who's just fed up and pissed off. He's been following and posting about Moxxee's progress for the past two years and I guess that if I had been eagerly following and waiting for ostensibly good coffee in my town, I'd be pissed too.

The angst of the blogger and the photos on their facebook page (plus the potential for tasty coffee) compelled me to make the drive down to Morris Street to see if Moxxee indeed was closed or open.

Situated on a quiet corner, the reclaimed building has been clad in metal panels and the interior done with mesh seats, contemporary banquette, copper window counters and a really nice-looking steel collage main counter. It's contemporary and high-tech looking.

The bar itself sports a big double Fetco drip coffee brewer, twin Clover brewers, dual Cirqua water systems, two Mazzer Robur-E grinders, a Mazzer Mini grinder (guessing decaf espresso here), and a three-group Synesso Cyncra espresso machine. All-in-all, Moxxee's equipment list reads like the baristas dream list. Of 2009.

Aside from the scattered pieces of technology and a paella pan/cooker combo scattered around the shop, Moxxee Coffee looks like it's ready to go. To my eye, with just a little cleanup, they should be able to add coffee, turn the lights on and rock and roll. Barring unforeseen technical issues or permitting, I can't imagine why they wouldn't be open - especially considering how much they've spent on the build out.

I guess I'm a bit influenced by Charles West's frustration because as I looked over their menu board, I couldn't help but to think that these guys really are stuck in 2009. Individual, brew-to-order coffee for $2.00? Shots of espresso for $1.50? Latte for $2.50? These really are 2009 prices and is a difficult way to make a profitable shop. I'm guessing the owners will revisit their pricing once they actively start purchasing inventory.

Today isn't the day, but ostensibly the day will come when the citizens of Charleston will be able to walk into Moxxee to try their version of 3W coffee.

I just wonder if Charles West will visit.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

West Virginia Calling

On the I-68 heading through West Virginia.

La Marzocco On Tour

Scott and Jordan sporting hats they found at Dreamland.

It's always nice to have visitors from the coffee industry. This morning, on to New York for the next leg of their East Coast Strada Tour, Chris, Jordan and Brian stopped by for a coffee and a brief hang, as well as an inspection of our trusty 3 group "Blackwell" Linea.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Paella Festival

Croqueta Cuadrada de Jamón con Fideos Crujientes - Iberian Ham Croquettes with Crispy Rice Noodles

After last weekend's okay attempt at paella, Gigi's email about the paella festival going on at Taberna del Alabardero in DC both scared and excited me. Excited about the possibilities, I was also a bit apprehensive to be shown where we made our critical mistakes.

But, since I was going to be in DC anyway, we decided to meet up and give the paella a try. So many variations available that it's really difficult, if not impossible, to try them all. After some debate, we settled on the squid ink paella and the one with the lechon (being the simple, Filipino creatures that we truly are).

Patatas Alli-Olli con Caviar de Arenque y Gelatina Rota de Perejil - Fried Golden Potatoes with Lightly Garlic Maionessa, Mackerel Caviar and Parsley Gelatin

Being from Spain, our server presented me with one of the few times I get to use my busted Spanish in America. Luckily for me, she could speak English and Camilo speaks better Spanish, so whatever I missed or whatever I got wrong, we could easily set correct.

Take, for example, eggs. One does not ask: "tienes huevos" - even though that would be perfectly acceptable in English. In Spanish, it's rude to ask someone if they have balls. I had to get clarification from Camilo as to why one would use "hay" instead of "tienes" - I'm still not sure if it makes sense and has stuck in my brain.

Meanwhile, Tengo Huevos....

Gazpacho Andaluz con su Pan Crujiente - Tomato and Vegetable Soup with Crispy Bread

There is a 2 person minimum per paella, meaning that with our table of four, we could order two paella. And it would take 15 minutes. For CapitolSwell, that was a problem that needed a ready solution: tapas.

To be honest, fifteen minutes isn't that long to wait for the paella. I presumed they were going to be big and that a little while of hunger would easily be supplanted by the paella. However, my resolve was not strong enough to combat jamon iberico croquetas and stuffed piquillo peppers. The real battle was not ordering more tapas.

Pimientos del Piquillo Rellenos de Rabo de Toro - Piquillo Peppers Stuffed with Braised Oxtail

Finally, the two hot paellas emerged and were carefully spooned out onto individual plates and served formally.

Our group is a down home lot. We grew up together so there's very little formality between us. It would have been perfectly acceptable (and preferable) for them to slap down both paellas on the table, give us a few spoons and keep the drinks flowing.

Paella de Cochinillo - Suckling pig, artichokes, and fresh vegetable rice

The paellas were good. The cochinillo had nice flavor but my favorite was the squid ink, reminding me of my mom's Tinta, a Filipino dish of squid in ink sauce. A familiar flavor that touches on my youth.

One thing that we noticed was the lack of socarrat, that layer of slightly burnt and crispy rice at the bottom of the paella pan. I don't know why it wasn't there but it sure was missed.

Arroz Negro de Calamar, Majillon y Gambas - Squid Ink Rice with Mussels and Shrimp

Sopa Helada de Espárragos a la Plancha con Limón y Aceite Caramelizado - Grilled Asparagus Sorbet with Lemon juice and Caramelized Olive Oil

Arroz con Leche Caramelizado con Sorbete de Naranja - Caramelized Home Made Rice Pudding topped with Orange Sorbet

A little chocolate mousse to send us on our way.

Strada-ling DC

Scott and The Boys latest album cover art.

I'm in DC for the day to hang with friends and take the La Marzocco Strada EP espresso machine technicians course, ostensibly one of the final hurdles before La Marzocco will allow me to have one of the new machines for Spro Hampden.

For as advanced and high-tech as the Strada EP really is, it's actually quite simple, and seemingly easy, to service. Pump rebuilds, firmware updates, potentiometer replacements all seem so much simpler than the Linea or GB5 series of machines. It's also vastly different than its sister MP version, with the MP being closer to a GB5 than the EP.

Inside the Strada EP paddle.

After an afternoon with Chris and the rest of the guys jockeying for a new Strada EP, I headed over with Rashid to check out his place, Filter. I had heard quite a lot about Filter from other baristas and chef Mark Furstenburg. Actually, it was really Mark's recommendation that made Filter the first on my list of coffee shops to visit in Washington DC and it just so happened that Rashid was taking the tech class as well.

Breaking away from the typical coffee supplier of the area, Rashid has decided to go with Annapolis' Pronto Coffee, who just so happens to buy some coffees from the same source I buy coffees - meaning they've got great coffees and I was interested to see their interpretation of the Ardi Ethiopia. Fruity, round and lovely. Paired that with a Hawthorne Bakery blueberry muffin and it was indeed a treat.

A little Ethiopian Ardi at Filter.

Filter itself is a smaller shop with seating for about 13 on the inside and a few more chairs (and lots of stoops) outside. At 4pm on a Wednesday, the place was full and humming along - one of the better reasons to investigate opening a shop in DC. Filled with colors of orange and brown, the space gives off a warm feeling and everyone seemed happily running along drinking coffee, eating pastries and surfing the internet on the free wi-fi.

For drink making, there's a La Marzocco GB5, a row of pourover brewers, a large hot water tower and a bunch of french presses for making coffee during the "busy morning rush".

Frisee Salad and Frites at Bistrot du Coin.

After departing Filter and not having eaten since my breakfast at Chick-Fil-A many hours before, I headed over to Bistrot du Coin for a little mid-afternoon meal. I've been to du Coin before and found it to be decent, in spite of some of my friends constantly raving about it.

I had the frisee salad and a side of frites. The salad was good but was a bit light on the acidity which would have popped it and really make it stand out. The frites were decent enough but slightly limp and didn't have that crisp that I really enjoy in a well-made frite. Numerous menu offerings such as blanquette du veau, curry mussels, steak tartare and the onglet made me wish for a phalanx of friends to order en masse for a sampling, which just means I will have to return at a later date.

It's Julie's last week as a District resident.

From there it was back to the La Marzocco event, this time it was for anyone interested in learning more about the Strada EP. I got to hang a bit with Samuel Demisse and see Julie Housh before she left DC and moves to the West Coast. Otherwise, I only hung out for less than an hour before heading off to dinner.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Making Craft

Several weeks ago, or was it a few months now? Some people had been haranguing me to put up the various certifications and certificates on the wall of Spro to show our guests just how much we've been recognized. Put up the newspaper and magazine articles too, I was told. They'll like it. Give them something to read.

In my mind, all I could really think was: "poppycock."

Don't get me wrong, being noticed by CNN, The Washington Post, La Prensa and the rest is truly an honor. Those Certificates of Appreciation from the various nations thanking us for working with their baristas and judging their competitions is a humbling honor, but do I really feel the burning need to put them up on our wall for the world to see? Not really. In fact, it's slightly embarrassing.

Truth is, I really don't care. Those certifications and articles are recognitions for what we've done in the past. We've already done it and, hopefully, are moving on to the next thing. While I'm very happy that the last review was a good one (or not), I'm concerned and focused on the guest that's coming in today for a visit. What can we do to ensure that today's guest will have an equally wonderful time as the reviewer? Or will that guests drink today be as good as they remember from yesterday (or last week)?

Shuna's recent post says it all: Reliability. Accountability. Cleanliness. Humility. Manners. Efficiency

What we've done in the past is nice, but how much does it really matter? What matters is what we do today and how we approach what we do today. And today I hope were making craft.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Zealous Idolatry

I am by no means a left-wing liberal. Nor am I some sort of right wing kook. I'm more of an American than a democrat or republican. I tend to be fiscally conservative, socially progressive, an advocate of freedoms (such as personal, speech and choice) and generally skeptical of government and the people who run it for us.

While we're not in total agreement, my circle of friends, treasured acquaintances and guests tends to be congenial and not-too-polarized-by-politics. That is, it seems, until recently when a newcomer decided that he must underscore his presence with very strong tones of his being a republican and an avid follower of Rush Limbaugh.

But we're not talking about conversation and advocacy for a particular position but rather that stereotypical "Ugly American" "right wing nutjob" kind of behavior. Escalating volumes and then bizarre, insistent pronouncements that those who disagreed were "idiots", "dumb" and generally stupid. I started to wonder if this guy was going to blame the fall of Western Civilization to the invasion of minorities, the spread of same sex marriage and Muslims.

I didn't pay too close attention to the argument happening three feet in front of me because it was just silly, and this person with the high moral ground was also an adulterer. Kind of difficult to take someone seriously and respect that persons supposed moral fiber when it's that loose. That and it's just a waste of time to argue with someone doing the adult equivalent of covering your ears and saying "I know you are but what am I?"

The comic part of the exchange started to occur when this person started insisting that the person he was arguing with didn't know what he was talking about and questioned where he received his information. Comic because our friend is a reporter for The Washington Post.

This person also decried the size of Big Government, ignoring the fact that he is employed by said government. How one rallies against the very hand that feeds him seems curious, at best, to me. Don't like Big Government? Quit and make it that much smaller.

Watching from across the bar was just rather strange. Strange to see that our little group had been invaded by this adulterous republican. He seemed consumed by his conservative brainwashing and anger. Was he going to resort to fisticuffs? I wondered when he would start calling for the extermination, er, expulsion of non-whites.

This kind of blind mentality reminded me of the guy my cousin married, another white ultra-conservative religious type. The kind of person that immediately makes me uneasy because they seem to be just a bedsheet away from a new wardrobe. That guy is a total prick and an adulterer too to think of it.

It also reminded me of the kind of white guys I used to see in Ermita, Manila parading around with their "exotic" girlfriends cum wives. Guys who seem more seduced by the ideal of having a submissive, exotic, Asian wife to do their bidding and then treat them like second-class whores in reality.

So curious that such zealous, right-wing, conservatives types seem to have a proclivity to adultery. Rally for "family values" and rail against homosexuality but cheat on your wife. Weird. I just don't "get it."

He really got another riled up when he started insulting President Obama with the typical stuff you hear from the right. Spending, war and more came up as Obama's failures with the belief that somehow it was only Obama that's the cause of these problems. Never mind the fact that much of what we face today was started by his republican predecessor.

It's that typical "blame everyone else but accept no responsibility" line of thinking - as though this person didn't live in a pre-2009 America and we don't have a divided government that's hell-bent on fighting each other over party lines instead of working forward to benefit America.

In the end, this guy really turned everyone off. Beyond the simple politics of position but more because of the belligerence and blind zealotry displayed. That kind of blind intolerance is scary and uncalled for in modern society. It's the kind of blindness that leads to hate and persecution. There is no reasoning with this kind of thinking.

And that's a shame.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

200 Yards

Losing my noodle at Diamond Ridge.

I must have been crazy saying yes to round of golf during the hottest week of the year. Pushing 104F on the course, I was lucky to have my trusty styrofoam Chick-Fil-A cup for ice and water. Brutal really is the only way to describe conditions today.

I've taken to using a new driver, one of those monster-sized concoctions with a very obnoxious "tink" sound when hitting the ball. At first, I was skeptical of these monster drivers but when I started seeing the results, I was astounded. 200 yard drives seemed almost effortless, then give a little more oomph and I'm thinking I'm driving 250 yards.

Years ago, I used to slice the ball. Now, I'm hooking it off to the left. To assuage this problem, I've taken to either targeting slightly to the right of my target or drastically to the right of my target. This works rather well until the time that I stroke it true and straight, sending the ball careening off to the right (or drastic right).

It's been two summers since I've played a proper round of golf so my short game has gone incredibly soft. Where once I could readily gauge the distance and stroke power, now I'm overshooting the green. Add this to the blistering heat and stifling humidity and I'm simply suffering on the course.

While I didn't shoot a very tight round of golf, losing four balls in the process, I did manage to cap off the day with a perfect par 5 on the 18th hole. Nice!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Welcome to The Vallarggio

The party gets underway.

The baptism of Ethan Kai brings everyone together for a night at Vallarggio. If you're familiar with Las Vegas parties, think Hard Rock Hotel's Sunday Rehab - East Coast Style. Lounge couches, tiki torches, open bar, large buffet and music: non-stop.

Making Lechon Liempo Ribs.

Scott and BrowserMetrics at the bar.

An attempt to make pseudo lechon Volcan.

The Lechon "Volcan"

Nacho and The Bob going deep.

The 3am Roll Call...

5:45am post party fire.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Soup's Off

Ciao Soups On!

It's been coming for the past two weeks. I heard about it first through twitter. Soup's On, that venerable Hampden soup joint across from Spro, was closing.

Known for using fresh, local ingredients, Cynthia and her team have been making great soups, salads and sandwiches for several years now and would be one of the few places that I would buy lunch from on a regular basis because it's difficult to find really great quality food in the world.

Our Spro Send Off Kit: Iced Lattes and a bottle of Cava.

But now all of that is over and we spend the final few hours at the Soup's On Closing Down Party - where Spike noted that it's the only restaurant closing party he's ever been invited. Wine, beer, agua frescas, chips, dip, guacamole and their signature tuna fish sandwiches, along with a healthy stack of Courtney's cookies, were all on offer and many stayed into the night and way past the 7pm official closing time.

Hopefully someone will soon open another nice eatery nearby where I can have lunch!

Cynthia, Mary, Courtney and Justino - The Soups On Crew.

A stack of their famous tuna sandwiches. I ate as much as I could. For the last time.

Memo's crew pulls down the signage.

A crowd gathers.

Facing Future.