Friday, December 31, 2010

"Auld Lang Syne" is Spanish for something...

...just not sure what. My Spanish is rusty. But I'm guessing it means, "let's pay too much for an underwhelming prix fixe meal at an odd hour (though all I want is my regular menu item of macaroni & cheese with ketchup), then drink to the point where we can actually understand what Dick Clark is saying."

I guess that's a little harsh for what is sure to be my most sentimental and least amusing post yet. We love you, Dick. A lot of folks say you should hang it up, but if your languishing vice-grip on the New Year's Rockin' Eve throne delays Seacrest from further expanding his evil empire, then godspeed, you old grizzly bear.

But back to "auld lang syne". It actually comes from a traditional Scottish poem by Robert Burns, and loosely translates to "for old time's sake"; the lyrics, furthermore, a plea to not forget old friends. With that in mind, here's a tip of the cap to everyone who made the masochistic chore of blogging actually a lot of fun in 2010. To the toasting:

- More than anyone else, to everyone who stops by here and reads my drivel. Without you, it really is a thankless chore. But, knowing that I may have entertained someone, or at least made the work day a little more tolerable- well- that makes all the late nights of hunting-and-pecking extraordinarily rewarding.

- To my magnificent wife, Heather, who allows me to be anti-social after not seeing her all day, lets me spend a king's ransom on liquid "research and education", and even insisted I travel to Walla Walla when our first child was 2 weeks old. You're too supportive and too wonderful.

-To my beautiful, incredible, miracle daughter, Olivia: I'm sorry this blog hasn't made me rich yet so that I can buy you a pony. And I hope that when you dust off these ancient posts when you're twenty-one, none of them warp your mind or set a bad example, despite what grandma may think (kidding, Ma!). You inspire me more than you could know.

-On that note, to my loving parents: thank you for the sense of humor (I think that's what it is). I knew full-well going into this whole opus that your role in life wouldn't allow you to approve of everything that goes on here. The chance to write and the opportunity to (hopefully) make a few folks laugh is of great value to me. No matter what, I appreciate your (at times reluctant) support of my hobby and all you have taught me. I love you!

- To (mostly former) Atlanta wine bloggers Ed, Kevin, Matt Mauldin, Dennis, Cecilia, and Elizabeth: great to know you folks. We've shared some good times (or will someday). I hope you all find the time to keep writing, and I wish everyone best of luck in your new endeavors and change of scenery. Fast Eddie, go get 'em out in California.

-To the gilded palates of the Atlanta food and wine rascals, especially Rowdy, Jimmy, Broderick, Falcon, and Biskuit: thanks for sharing some or your incredible food and bottles with me. You've helped me learn, taste what I wouldn't otherwise, and made me realize how stupid it was to buy a house way the hell up in Woodstock. Someday, I'll bring aged Burgundy to dinner as well. Looking forward to some good times in MMXI.

-To the Bat Hunter: finding the perfect Albariño has become my White Whale.

-To Thea the Wine Brat: thanks for helping get me out to Walla Walla. You're aces, kid.

-To the online blogger crowd of Ed Thralls (& Jonjie), Benito Carter, Samantha Dugan, Hardy/Dirty, Ben Simons, Amanda Maynard, Steve Paulo, Josh Wade, Drew Lazorchak, Sam Klingberg, Tamara Belgard, Brian Wing, The Beecham Boys, Steve Washuta, Joe Roberts, Matt Browne, Ron HMW, Constance C, Matthew Horbund, all the great folks on Twitter, and anyone else that I absolutely (and embarrassingly) left out: thank you for the friendship, inspiration, support, retweets, encouragement, guest posts, shameless promotion, top-offs, comments n' criticisms, bottle recommendations, didjeridoo advice, shipments o' wine, inside jokes, couches to crash upon, graphic design, and lots of laughs.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp! And surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld lang syne.

(I'm pretty sure that's a toast...I'm not fluent in Burns' old Scot. I'll just stick with Gaelic and say Sláinte! See you next year.)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Booze in the News: 2010 in Rehab, er, Review

Just when you thought another ill-conceived "weekly" feature had fizzled- like so many before it- into obscurity, here comes a ham-fisted, disorganized, and sloppily-produced retrospective of a ham-fisted, disorganized, and sloppily-produced "weekly" feature.

Below are some of my favorite stories from 2010 that celebrated the magical elixir that causes hangovers, thus causing a hungover blogger to resort to such yellow journalism:

Best packaging: with all due respect to Pabst Blue Ribbon applying the proverbial lipstick to the metaphorical pig (though PBR does drink about as well as what is squeegied from the floor of a pig sty) by repackaging and selling its swill for $40+ to unsuspecting Chinese, this one has to go BrewDog, and its "End of History" beer. While I wouldn't pay hundreds of dollars for a 55% ABV bottle of suds, the thought of a dining room centerpiece featuring a taxidermied weasel with a bottle lovingly crammed down its gullet is certainly making me reconsider my need for Italian stingray boots.

Best drunk celebrity quote: Because we don't know if Kanye West was drunk when pretty much anything came out of his mouth, this one goes to Indianapolis Colts punter Pat McAfee, who was arrested after being found wet and shirtless in downtown Indy at 5 AM on Oct. 20. When asked how much he had been drinking, McAfee quipped, "a lot, because I am drunk." Brilliant. However, the whole thing stinks of a bit of a frame-up to me. I must say I would've never suspected a guy named "Patrick McAfee" from West Virginia to be drinking.

Best use of booze in cooking: This is a tough one. Normally, the thought of taking a nice bottle of wine or some craft beer and subjecting to a culinary pursuit that will rob it of vitalizing alcohol is...disturbing. Yet, the notion of taking ANY food and deep-frying it offers 100% reassurance that the cuisine in question will be vastly improved. Okra? It sucks. Fried okra? Like manna from heaven. Remember how turkey was the bland "khaki slacks" of meats, and then some wild-eyed Cajun pumped it up with hot sauce and threw that gobbler into a pot of peanut oil? I'm getting flush just thinking about it. But what if some enterprising gent from Texas took booze...and deep-fried it? You would have deep-fried beer. Yes. DEEP. FRIED. BEER. And, because the cooking time is so short, the alcohol remains. I don't really care to know how this came to be, but it must taste like the tears of a baby angel. In fact, I have it on good authority that they serve this very dish in the mess halls of heaven. Hell? Same thing, but it's steamed and made with PBR.

Best blog post about Robert M. Parker, Jr.: I was very fortunate to connect with hundreds of weird and wonderful booze-lovers in 2010. To my delight, many of those folks had equally weird and wonderful booze-centric blogs to peruse. I've confirmed that Syrah and turkey are a terrible pairing. I realized that someone can actually make a pizza (of sorts) with that Chef Boyardee pizza kit. But, while I've been left in fits of laughter by many entertaining posts (admittedly, mostly Hosemaster posts), only one resulted in snot bubbles out the nose, slapping of bellies, and soiled pantaloons. Check out this (allegedly) fictional account of a night with RP from Nick at Lousy Grapes. Then go make yourself a Rhône Sangria Speedball before a cigarette run to Walgreen's.

Best Movie about drinking: Unfortunately, this year didn't feature a film with the chops of a Sideways. Nary a match for Leaving Las Vegas. And I'm still holding out for the sequel to 1983's Strange Brew. But this was still a pretty easy choice: 2010's best movie about drinking was definitely Eat, Pray, Love. Okay, so Eat, Pray, Love wasn't about drinking. However, it drove me to drink. Fine, I didn't even see it. But the excessive marketing trying to trick me into seeing it drove me to drink. But I guess I didn't need an excuse. Anyway, based solely on the title (as I'm way too cool* to know anyone who saw Eat, Pray, Love), I'm confident that it sucked. No, not quite as bad as this snippet on the "best movie about drinking", which has completely derailed, but that still leaves Eat, Pray, Love in the realm of "probably pretty awful".

Onto 2011. May it bring important booze innovation and continued Lohan-esque shenanigans for all our entertainment.

*denotes sarcasm

Friday, December 24, 2010

On Feasting

I've been feasting. Feasting instead of writing, in fact.

The evidence is in the pants. They're snug. My shirts and sweaters accentuate what could be described as a solid a-to-fledgling b cup. Chin #2 is getting its own congressional district. I even think my socks were tight the other day.

But such is the tradition of Christmas. Sure, the etymology of the name equates to "Christ's Mass", a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Yet, as the swaddled Jesus slept and the kings of the Orient were busy taking tokes off the myrhh pipe, I'm pretty sure there was nary a decorated pine tree, crackling yule log, or a fat guy with a beard (as Renaissance paintings have taught me that all Israelites were quite fit).

Indeed, much of what we know as "Christmas" today is tradition pulled from pagan celebrations, Germanic Yule, and the Roman Winter Solstice, among other wacky exercises in debauchery for the toga-set. One such was known as Saturnalia, or the feast of the titan god Saturn. The week-long fracas involved a role-reversal, with masters serving slaves, elaborate spreads, and- well- it wouldn't be a Roman celebration without orgies aplenty, the pinnacle of wine + nakedness. In fact, things got so out-of-hand that even bat-$@#% crazy emperor Caligula tried to shorten the festival to 5 days, without success.

So, with Christmas Eve upon us, I try to find a happy medium between the many bits and pieces of its origin. I wish that everyone out there- Christian or not- is filled with the joy of the season, spending time with family, friends, and loved ones. Let this be a time of hope, of reflection, and of anticipation towards the challenges and opportunities that a new year will bring...

...but we needn't forget to pepper in a little Saturnalia. Stuff your face. Have that extra slice of roast beef. Fill your pockets with mashed potatoes for the road. Drink wine. Have an extra glass. Open the good stuff: Burgundy, Barolo, Sauternes, Champagne, that cult Napa Cabernet. Sing. Dance. Strategically place yourself under the mistletoe (a note to the ladies: man-boobs are exempt in the presence of mistletoe). Find a friend, put him in a half-in-the-bag headlock, and tell him how much you love him.

But please: keep your clothes on, at least in public. Orgies are so passé.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and, of course, Sláinte!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Iceman Cometh

With all due to respect to San Antonio Spurs great George "Iceman" Gervin, I'm talking about the bitter cold in Atlanta, not the quiet storm that is a perfectly-executed finger roll.

Ah, the finger a slam dunk for the Yacht Rock set. So smooth.

But I digress (as usual). It's freezing in the Deep South. As I headed out to my car this morning, I noticed my neighbor hauling in the last of the season's whale blubber into his igloo. He gave me a quick glance: one of sympathy, but also one of survival-fueled gratitude, for it would be me- not him- without enough warming whale oil to outlast winter's savage fury... this point, I realized I had been dreaming, leaving me really pissed that I was still in bed, and I would be forced to leave the warmth of my downy cocoon to go commute in such crappy weather.

However, there exists some upside to such frigid conditions: I tend to crave hearty stews and rich red wines. Screw summer, and its socially-acceptable desires for lettuce and Vinho Verde. No, I want the stuff that made love handles before love handles were so fashionable (at least in America).

Fortunately, I had some lamb chops on hand. I also had potatoes and Guinness, but I'm Irish, so you already knew that. Add carrots, onions, some beef stock, a little bit of salt, pepper, and thyme, and before you lie the trappings for a proper Irish Stew (or some variation of it). For grins, and because lamb and Syrah go so well together, I popped a juicy, spicy 2006 Kokomo Dry Creek Valley Syrah.

What resulted was a rib-stickin', soul-warming meal that was worth of Greatness. Just like George Gervin. And Yacht Rock. And favorable weather.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Blog Apologies: Let's Get Pompous!

I'm pretty sure that whenever a blogger gets on his virtual soapbox and explains with remorse a lack of current content, no one really cares. Take the following cookie-cutter statement*:

"Hey, really sorry I haven't posted in a while. Stuff has been crazy-busy in real life, but there's been a lot going on, and I have a ton to write about. I'll start posting a bunch of great stuff soon!"

-Signed, your favorite blogger in the whole world

(*these hackneyed statements are usually accompanied by a low-quality picture of some jerkass- likely the blog author- sniffing wine in an exotic location or something.)

Heard that one before? Hell, I've written that one before...several times. However, making such a statement is decidedly pompous, if only for the bold assumption that folks are actually reading.

"But I saw that 200 people visited my blog today" (this is my inner monologue...pompous!)

I used to think that number mattered. Then Google Analytics crushed my spirit (as math often does). The average "Time on site" metric of "0:07 seconds" made if very clear to me that my decision to write a wine blog instead of making sketchy internet porn has been bad for business.
Fortunately, some nice folks over at Snooth were kind enough to name-drop this wine-soaked porn desert as one of the "witty" wine blogs they're currently reading (along with Another Wine Blog and Gang of Pour...interesting and quirky spots also devoid of porn, meaning I haven't visited them much). So, while this doesn't necessarily mean that more readers will stick around in this corner of cyberspace, it does suggest there will probably be a slight uptick in visitors (temporarily), as they will only to be turned off by pompous crap like me expressing contrition for not posting much in the past week.

So I guess I better get back on my game (if I ever had any). If anything, that means more drinking, and- well- drinking leads to the actions truly worthy of apology.

Anyway, thanks for coming by, and...really sorry I haven't posted in a while. Stuff has been crazy-busy in real life, but there's been a lot going on, and I have a ton to write about. I'll start posting a bunch of great stuff soon!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Booze + Comedy: Mankind's Greatest Pairing

Delightfully often, a little too much booze leads to comedy. Celebrity mug shots are a classic example.

And even for those of us who are not famous (don't let the 5+ visits a day to this blog fool you), the best of times are often in the presence of a community bottle (sometimes, coincidentally, ending in police intervention). Get group of good friends together, and the bullshit starts to fly. Add a couple bottles of wine, scotch, or Laotian Tiger Penis Whiskey, and you're literally slipping on it...

I'm sitting in a hotel in Savannah, having just been run-through-the-wringer that is a typical day of rigorous business travel, and I'm surprisingly content and, hell, a little giddy. Surely, my current disposition is not a product of a straight eight hours of meetings, followed by a three hour road trip completely devoid of beef jerky, Funyuns, or any of the familiar highway hors d'oeuvres to temper my cranky, hypoglycemic traveling companion.

Yet, finally after a good meal and a few glasses of wine (and whiskey), our dire situation turned to smiles, storytelling, and- more than anything else- laughter.

A table full of food and a strong drink, after a whirlwind of stress and hackneyed business-speak buzzwords (think "ROI", "fifty thousand foot view", and "low-hanging fruit", etcetera, etcetera, ad nauseam), really just loosens things up and transforms the points of frustration into anecdotes and merrymaking. These times are the most human moments of life on the road.

So, when an event comes along that purposely brings drinks and laughter together, I'm obligated to promote. The wine and spirit blogerati can tend to get mired in the "romantic" and "serious" aspects of the fermented the end, it should all ultimately lead to laughter, if not laughter and nakedness (in that order. Always. Except for the "nakedness" part. At least for me. Boo.).

Now, I can't speak to your prospect for nakedness, but I can appreciate that Mutineer Magazine, the booze mag for the goofy set, has put together it's Holiday Comedy Festival, coming up on Dec. 11. Not only does this opus combine cocktails and jokes, perhaps the two singular greatest things on earth, but it also benefits a great cause: A Child's Right.

I'm sure I'll be far-too occupied with mind-numbing business to make it to Northern California for this event, but if you're lucky enough to live in the most beautiful, bankrupt state in the union, if would probably behoove you to check it out. Do it for the kids. Do it for the jokes. Do it for the drinks. Maybe even for the potential nakedness...

...and if you get lost in the spirit of the moment and end up on the police blotter, I will laugh. Consider your sacrifice a donation to the sanity of those working on the road.