Hello!

Welcome to The Epic! I am launching this blog as a manifesto for and a guide to living well. The title and motto of the blog are taken from the Epicureans, at least some of whom believed in the notion that not one minute of the future was guaranteed to them and that as a result they had the duty to live life to its fullest every moment.

I believe in discovering fun and pleasurable things wherever I find myself each day and I am told I have a knack for unearthing them. My hope is that by sharing in my pleasures and some of my ways of finding them you will begin to collect all the riches that lie in the moments of your life. They are there. Take them! All our lives should be.....Epic.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Shots





 It has by now been established without argument that the modern day is primarily one of instant gratification.  The insidious effect of this phenomenon has even pierced the sanctuary of the tavern, causing me to ruminate today on the topic of "shots".

To say that I am ambivalent on the subject of "shots" is an understatement. Classically, an imbiber's reference to a "shot" is the drink defined by Webster as "a small measure or serving (as one ounce) of undiluted liquor or other beverage" and by the The American Heritage Dictionary as "a drink of liquor, especially a jigger" which has long been a part of cocktail culture. I am even willing, on occasion, to stretch Webster's definition of a "shot" from "undiluted" to "substantially undiluted" when a drop of water or an ice cube or two is needed to release some flavor locked within a whiskey. In any event, the adult drinker's right to an honest pour of a finger or two  in either a rocks glass or in a proper shot glass is a right predating all recorded law.



Both vessels can and should be used for a reflective tipple of favorite Scotch, Bourbon or other alcoholic beverage on an appropriate occasion.  The former is also used to contain great cocktails such as the Old Fashioned which has provided the correct name for the glass.  The latter is also customary equipment for the business end of the venerable Boilermaker.  Or for drinking rot-gut whiskey in a western bar after a hard day's ride.  Or Tequila in a cinder block joint in Panama City, Florida while you are eating the best Carne Asada steak you can imagine.  Without question then the "shot" holds an ancient spot in the history of drinking.

But when the modern need for instant gratification intersects with classical boozing, an ugly back edge to the
"shot" is soon exposed consisting of the seemingly unending string of complicated alcoholic concoctions being offered to the patrons of many bars, usually in small plastic cups.  We have all seen them on drink menus by now.  A "Napoleon's Horse's Sweat".  A "Ferrari Oil Pan Droplet".  With not only names but descriptions which range from the madly complex to the downright nasty.  Especially the ones containing Red Bull.  The neo-shot is intended to be downed in one gulp, presumably to effect an immediate alcohol buzz while simultaneously preventing the consumer from actually tasting the contents of the plastic cup. The tavern equivalent of hitting yourself in the head with a rock.   

On the other hand, the modern shot is probably doing at least something to keep the art of mixology moving forward with new vitality. If some thought is given to the recipe and good ingredients are used, there is no reason why a small cocktail should be placed lower in the hierarchy than a traditional drink. The problem (other than the immediate consumption issue) is that most neo-shots seem designed with the one purpose of justifying a snarky name that the patron will get a laugh from when ordering.  As for the abominable plastic cups, they deserve no more of a raised eyebrow than the use of stemless martini glasses in so many places these days.  Both "innovations" are motivated by the scrabble for profit with fractionally low purchase price and disposability on the plastic side and low breakage and ease of cleaning on the stemless side. The Eco-conscious tippler would no doubt weigh in on the side of even stemless glassware due to its reusable nature and lack of petrochemical content.  Similarly, the trade-unionist imbiber would support a washable product in the hope of boosting employment among bar workers.  Some of us who are rather notably lacking in sub-plots merely want a martini glass that functions like a martini glass is supposed to function, with a stem that keeps the heat of your hand away from the drink.  These days, we "no subplot" folk are probably a vanishing breed.

A difficult social situation can be presented by the neo-shot.  In some situations, a fellow patron may offer to buy you one in return for some bon mot or another.  Or due to the success of a favorite sports team. In such circumstances it helps to know your bartender very well. On one such occasion, as I no doubt blanched at the notion of downing a "Ballentine Buzz Saw" or a "Purple Passion Panic" or some such thing without a team of paramedics or a stomach pump at my side, the wonderful bartender immediately intervened and said "he doesn't like shots......how would it be if you buy him another round instead?" That is a good bartender, I can tell you.

One particularly suspect sub-category of the neo-shot is the jello shot.  There is no evidence from which the fault for the jello shot can be laid at the doorstep of the Jell-O company which has occupied a respectable place in American desserts since its primary product was invented by Peter Cooper in 1845.  Does Mr. Cooper look to you like a person who would pour a lot of discount brand vodka or grain alcohol into a vat of gelatin for the purpose of making American youth drunk during spring break?


I hardly think so.  But the true depths to which North American drinking has descended is proven by the product I saw for sale in my local grocery store yesterday and which is depicted in the opening photo of this post.  Disposable, plastic, "gelatin shot cups".  In packs of forty, no less.  Despite the labeling in French and Spanish, someone please tell me that the contagion has been confined to my continent.  Please. Until I receive confirmation of this issue, I will remain at the corner of some bar in some semi-dark establishment.  Drinking a drink, not a neo-shot.  Out of a glass vessel suitable for the dignity of the occasion.  You may join me if you like.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Portland: Third Avenue Freeze Out


My first trip to Portland, Oregon could have been better. I was barely able to get there due to one of the repeated winter storms that have been sweeping the U.S.A. this year. Despite the northern locale, they apparently don't get much bad weather in Portland or at least not much weather that involves ice storms because a lot of the city seemed to be shut down. The photo above was taken from my window at the very lovely Embassy Suites hotel in Downtown on Pine Street.  It is a restored grand dame of the Pacific Northwest as is shown by the lobby...

But the weather was really atrocious.  What to do?  Find a great Irish Pub of course.   And, through my ever-present travel kismet, there was just such an establishment located a block behind my hotel.  In fact, you can see it in the upper right corner of the first photo above.  A place called Kell's.  Talk about a great bar...




As one would hope, TWENTY FOUR kinds of Irish whiskey.  I did my best to sample them.  After all, one can't get funny looks from one's mother [a Sullivan].  But to save a traveler from such weather, there has to be more than great booze.  Shocking to the return reader, I know.  But a great pub must have great food.  And Kell's does not disappoint.  How about a very fine smoked salmon plate...




Followed by.....what else....shepherd's pie....

...also done to perfection with additional sampling of whiskey and Guinness of course.  They have live music every night on this neat small stage...


...but honestly, I really wanted a nap after whiskeys, Guinness and the fine meal.  The group of us traveling had fine meals at Higgins [1239 Broadway] and El Gaucho [319 SW Broadway] but I have to say that Kell's was the life-saver.  I am looking forward to my return in a week or two.....

P.S. I am having to travel with my Irish Redhead for a week or so for some medical treatment so I may not be posting. Hang in there Epics!!! I will return.....


Sunday, March 2, 2014

Still Around.......

Hello to all Epics! I have not quit writing and posting and I have several drafts in the works for future posts.


The problem is, all of a sudden I cannot add photos to my drafts. I have never had this problem before with Blogger but it is driving me a little crazy since I don't like to do a post without a photo or two.


If anyone can help me out, I would appreciate it. I have this problem on Internet Explorer and on Chrome. Pop Up Blockers off, etc., nothing seems to work.  It is a real drag.


I'll be back soon!


ML

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Colette


This is the birthday [1873] of Colette, the memorable French writer.  Here is why I think we would have gotten along very well....

"Voluptuaries, consumed by their senses, always begin by flinging themselves with a great display of frenzy into an abyss. But they survive, then come to the surface again. And they develop a routine of the abyss: 'It's four o clock. At five I have my abyss.'"

Happy Hour, anyone?

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Fuzzy Photos From Great Bars


It is Mardi Gras time again!! What better place to start the party than the famed Sazerac Bar at the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans?

Saturday, December 28, 2013

A Young Man And A Trip: Wisconsin Chapter 3


Two years ago, my then 14 year old son The Future Rock Star, astounded me by asking if he and I could take a winter trip to Wisconsin so he could learn about where I grew up.  It was a tremendous trip.  We did it again last year.  I am now addicted to this event and I look forward to it from the time of our return after a week up North each year.

Due to the vicissitudes of public school calendars, the week before Christmas that was listed as vacation for the FRS when I booked this trip in August had to my dismay become exams week by Thanksgiving.  The FRS was crushed, at least as much as a young man of 16 will allow himself to show.  We went anyway, staying for three nights.  At least that was the plan.

We had surprisingly easy flying, enjoying a typically fine meal at One Flew South in the Atlanta airport before landing at O'Hare in Chicago late Friday evening.  It was snowing when we landed and it continued the entire trip.  When we checked into our hotel in Wisconsin, the photo above was the general look of things.  We couldn't have been more excited about our prospects for the weekend. In our room we found evidence of what I consider a nice trend in some hotels....a little seasonal toy to brighten up the evening...


A touching item in the opinion of this seasoned traveler anyway.  When we are in Wausau, Wisconsin we always go to the Great Dane brew pub for dinner.  They make superb beers at the Great Dane and the food is amazing also.  I had a seasonal Pumpkin Ale and a German Sausage Platter while the FRS had a "light" appetizer of fried cheddar cheese curds followed by a great looking Jagerschnitzel platter.  Oh for a teen metabolism!!!

I sprung a surprise on the FRS at dinner that evening...that we were going to his first-ever Green Bay Packer game at legendary Lambeau Field the next day!!  He was astounded and very excited.  It would be my first Packer home game since I was younger than he is.

Here is the view out the window on Sunday morning...


Time to hit the road for the hour and twenty minute drive to Green Bay.  Here is a tip.  Line up stadium parking in advance.  This web site was really great and we got parking a block from Lambeau Field with a very nice fellow helping us out when we got there.  We donned all the cold weather Packer gear we owned...


...then we bought some more.  With proper equipment, the weather made the trip.  Without proper gear, disaster would have ensued.  But I knew this from growing up in the area so we were well prepared.  We rounded the corner and ...


...a snowy Vince Lombardi greeted us at the stadium atrium entrance.  We wandered around the tailgate area for a while but the wind began to whip the snowflakes into a blizzard so we decided to seek refuge inside the atrium...


...an excellent spot with the huge Packer gift shop, several places to get food and drink, and a bluegrass band.  We were watched over by a pantheon of Packers...


...until it was time for the pregame gates to open and we went to our seats.  It was a little over ten degrees [F] when we went into the stadium proper with snow and a howling wind.  The "frozen tundra" indeed.



The glamour of being an NFL cheerleader loses something in a blizzard...and in a snow-suit...


We procured souvenir programs...


...and funny stick-masks of Aaron Rodgers' face...[he didn't play]...


The stick-masks helped block the wind.  A little.  Balaclava masks made from micro-fleece did a MUCH better job.  The big scoreboard televisions showed a perfect picture for replays and reminded us of our glorious history as thirteen time champions...


As I said, we lost a close game that we should have won.  It was so cold that I didn't even try to take a photo during the game because that would have entailed removing my gloves. All in all though we were very comfortable during the game.  Let me say again, long underwear and those balaclavas were essential.

The hour-plus drive back to Wausau in the dark after the game was over a snowy highway with only two tire tracks in one lane open.  Luckily lots of Packer fans were making the drive in a long caravan so the tracks stayed open and nobody was speeding or trying to pass.  Sketchy driving for Dad, even with my Norwegian genetics and [long unused] winter driving skills.  Safely back at our hotel, the FRS hit the shower and declared that he was not going out for dinner so I sallied forth for take-out.  Which, luckily, landed me at Treu's Tic Toc Club, one of the great Wisconsin bars you will ever find...


There was a lot of snow outside the night in question.  The inside of Treu's is a warm shelter from even the most significant Wisconsin storm...


Treu's even has festive holiday d├ęcor...


And great hot beef sandwiches and of course Bratwurst.  But on this blizzard of a night, the best thing was that the bartender was featuring Tom and Jerry cocktails, my favorite winter defroster.  One of those and I was ready to carry food back to the FRS.  A perfect trip completed [other than the football loss of course].  Or so I thought.

At the airport the next morning this was the view outside the concourse window...


This was the BEST it got all morning...as flights were cancelled and delayed and delayed and cancelled.  All for good reason I might add. I have never understood the anger of fellow travelers when an airline refuses to launch them off into a hurricane, thunderhead or blizzard.  In the event, it became increasingly obvious that if we stuck to the plan of flying home [it was December 23] we stood a serious chance of not being able to fly on our appointed day, nor on the worst flying day of any year, Christmas Eve.  As a result, we stood a significant chance of not being home for Christmas. 

I looked at him.  He looked at me.  Two words formed simultaneously for each of us.  Just like the classic scene in Animal House. 

ROAD TRIP.

We abandoned the airport before the rest of the stranded hoard [who were soon hot on our tails] and rented a superb SUV.  Then we drove it all the long way home.  Well, I drove it.  Along with my excellent little $100 GPS unit. The FRS provided in-flight entertainment with sports trivia and by using the Shazam app to identify obscure songs on the radio when we couldn't guess what they were.  That happened quite a bit actually.

Wisconsin,
Illinois,
Arkansas,
Missouri,
Mississippi,
Alabama

Twenty hours.  We did have to spend the night of the 23d in deep downstate Illinois because of our late start leaving Wisconsin.  By all accounts, a grueling drive.  But it was tremendous fun.  An unexpected two days of extra dad/son bonding.  An Epic gift of the highest order.  We arrived home at 9:30pm on December 24.  The condition of the truck told it all...


But we made it, safe and sound.  Possessed of memories we both will cherish the rest of our lives.  A superb Christmas present.  I can't wait to do it all over again next year.

Thursday, December 12, 2013