Sunday, November 23, 2008

Le Beaujolais nouveau

So Friday night André and I attended the Beaujolais Nouveau celebration at the Heathman. It is apparently one of the biggest Beaujolais Nouveau parties in the country - who knew there were so many francophiles in Portland? I find it amusing that a culture with such supposedly high epicurean standards (France, not Portland) has produced an annual tradition based on a wine that nobody actually really likes. In any event, the Heathman party was pretty fun. We missed the suckling pig, but there was a bunch of really good cheese and crepes Suzette and macarons and a bunch of shrimps still with their eyes and whiskers. I love dressing up and hanging out in old-fashioned hotels for any reason, too. It makes me feel like Eloise at the Plaza, or a decadent, drunk old lady stepping on the hem of her evening gown.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Milking It

The folks at Skyy have been pairing their vodka with milk. Not in a White Russian but Milk the movie, about Harvey Milk, who served on the SF Board of Supervisors and was the first openly gay man to be elected to major public office in the US. (And SEAN PENN plays him in the movie! And Gus Van Sant directs!) Skyy is launching a marketing campaign to go along with the movie, sort of like they did with Sex & the City. (You may have seen the big, pink ads.) I am less interested in what's in a "Talk of the Castro" cocktail or how many opening parties Skyy is promoting than that this partnership is happening, period.

Cynics may just see it as an attempt to cash in, but while Skyy may be doing just that, along the way they are also raising awareness, helping to mainstream gayness, and even making a difference financially. As part of the campaign, Skyy is making contributions to LGBT organizations, including the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).

Companies are beginning to do this kind of thing more and more. Another example is Kimpton hotels, who have an active marketing & sales campaign targeting LGBT communities. Even though it's probably just numbers more than anything else - the product of a savvy market analysis and outreach plan - it still kinda warms my heart.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Weekend Report

Friday night André and I hung out with our colleagues from the firm at 50 Plates. Highlights included an intriguing Algonquin, made from rye, dry vermouth and pineapple juice. They also have a great new drink called the Linda. Go in and ask Lance to make you one. Then run.

Saturday Autumn and I checked out the House Spirits open house, where Gwydion Stone's Absinthe Marteau debuted. Extraordinary. I also tasted the saffron vodka from Sub Rosa. It tasted kind of like curry - yummy, but I'm not sure what I would do with that. Any ideas?

Then that evening I made kasha varnishke for a friend's potluck. I am a West Coast, 21st century Jew. I go to work on the high holy days and I got my kasha varnishke recipe not from the matriarchs of my family but from Mark Bittman, aka The Minimalist, on Well, that's how it goes. (Bittman, at least, is a fellow M.O.T.) It was still super good, and hopefully will keep my skinny goyish boyfriend from blowing away in the breeze.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Door 74 Opens

Philip Duff, who has long been the face of Bols and Damrak gin, is striking out on his own with Door 74, a grown up bar with a reverence for history. After years as a brand ambassador, Philip finally gets to do exactly what he wants, putting his own stamp on Amsterdam's wonderfully, shamelessly stylish and romantic bar culture with classic cocktails, new creations, and an old-school attitude.

This excerpt from the bookish bar menu gives a taste of what to expect:

We do not have:

bad attitudes, a lack of patience, a door charge, a toilet charge, a wardrobe charge, any drinks companies paying us to stock crap brands, any products designed to appeal to the kind of people who watch more than one reality-TV show, untrained bartenders, energy drinks, low prices, loud music, tea or coffee, the policy of jamming as many people into the space as humanely possible, any problem with a beer and a shot of booze, any time for Paris Hilton*, too-small rocks glasses, too-large cocktail glasses, brandy snifters, sweetened cranberry juice, much vodka at all, neon straws (unless it’s Tiki Night), disco cocktails, small measures, any outstanding warrants for our arrest**, any desire to make non-alcoholic cocktails, or a bar mascot (although we’d quite like to have a sloth).

We do have:

Friendly staff, fast bartenders, double-frozen Hoshizaki ice for shaking and stirring, enormous globes of ice for liquor on the rocks, glassware freezers left, right and center, gorgeous liquor brands you’ll rarely see anywhere else (because they don’t have the money to buy their space on the back bar), faith in humanity, belief in the small of a woman’s back, the hanging curve ball, high fiber, good scotch, years and years and years of experience, a deep and abiding love of good liquor, great cocktails and lasting friendships, enough bitters to make Harry Johnson giggle like a fool, a tailor, owners who work almost every shift themselves, a belief that good drinks matter and grown-up people enjoy them, decent late-night snacks, excellent wines and beers, seats for everyone, late opening hours, a day off occasionally, and a lot of time for you. Thanks for coming.

*Except for Mr. Duff.
**Except for Mr. Duff, again

The initial cocktail list is a liquid biography of Charles Henry Baker, Jr (author of the classic Jigger, Beaker & Glass: The Gentleman’s Companion) with a Violette fizz, Remember the Maine, and other delights.

Unfortunately for me, this bar is in Amsterdam, but I am adding it to the long and growing list of things I absolutely must do if and when I make it back to Europe again. (I wonder if Bols has found a new brand ambassador...)

Door 74 is now open. While it is made for ladies and gentlemen, scoundrels, says Philip, are welcome. That means you. Please click here for more info. And for more than you ever wanted to know about Amsterdam's cocktail culture, you can read my story in Imbibe Magazine.