Sunday, March 30, 2008
Vote to Make the Sazerac the "Official State Cocktail of Louisiana!"
Ann Rogers Tunnerman, Founder of Tales of the Cocktail, has been working on a campaign to make the historic Sazerac the Official State Cocktail of Louisiana. Senator Edwin Murray agreed to introduce the bill in this legislative session after reviewing her letter and materials.
(Read more about making the perfect Sazerac in this blog post by my pal, Jeffrey Morgenthaler. This is also his photo...)
The vote on the bill has been set for April 2nd at the State Capital. Please help this effort by sending a short email in support of the bill to to Senator Murray and his assistant, Tonice Duncan. If the bill passes it would become law in August of this year... which could open up "official state cocktails" for all of us!
(Now that's a campaign we can all get behind!)
Senator Edwin Murray's email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tonice Duncan's email: email@example.com
(As seen in my monthly cocktail column in Northern Virginia Magazine)
Legal Eagles and outlaws, alike, voluntarily surrender to temptation at the freshly minted Trademark Bar. Nestled into Old Town’s new Westin Alexandria Hotel, in Virginia, the wine bar is named for its proximity to the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, and features some creative cocktails playing off that concept. Where better to mull over your latest invention, or consort with your lawyer, than perched upon a barstool?
2 ounces Patron Silver tequila
1 1⁄4 ounces fresh lime juice
1ounce white cranberry juice
Muddle cilantro in bottom of mixing tin. Add ice and remaining ingredients, then shake well and strain into ice-filled highball glass. Garnish with cilantro sprig and lime wedge.
photo credit Fredde Lieberman
Saturday, March 29, 2008
I recently raved about a new product I received from a publicist. Her client has a wonderful liquor, and I was so inspired by it that I did something I very rarely do… I dropped everything and wrote glowingly about it, immediately.
Lesson #1: Be happy it got written about, especially if it’s a rave review.
As you can see in this photo, I have about a dozen awesome products, right this minute, on my “to-do” shelf. Some have been there for 3 weeks. I will get to them, eventually… (as I will my two monthly columns, follow up on a pitch to a national magazine, edit the manuscript of my book just back from the publisher, and film / edit more content for the new “vlog” element of The Liquid Muse.)
“My issue is that you didn't fact check and didn't tell me you were posting until the info was live.”
Lesson #2: Here’s how blog posting works:
You send me a concise email with the intriguing things you want me to know about a product, along with a photo and product sample. Then, if so moved, I will write about it. As a courtesy, I usually let you know once it has been posted. End of story.
I can only attribute the “fact checking” remark to my proclamation that the wonderful new product was about to be unleashed upon the world. In her complaint, she squaked about it already having its first bottles hit a handful of stores, a couple of months ago, in one U.S. state. Uh, yeah...
Lesson #3: A blog is global.
Considering that Sipsters are as far flung as Singapore, Turkey and South Africa, I am not sure that the rest of the world finds it terribly convenient – or of great interest – to know that something is available in one area of one state on the other side of the world. (Pssst… this is why I use links. Interested parties can look up any details they wish. They even know how to order online. Technology rocks.)
This particular publicist also chastised me for (gasp!) using a photo I took myself. I did not get a photo with the pitch. And, even if I did, I may have chosen not to use it. I usually prefer professional photos over my own, but I also don’t have time to wait for one. I get pitched new products several times per day. I don’t have the manpower, enough memo pads or memory cells to keep an eye out for a photo of a liquor that may come in a couple of weeks. Grab the great review and run. I may not get back around to your clients for a while.
Lession #4: The blogger has the final say.
Think of a blog as a publication. Now, realize that the blogger is the Senior Editor, Publisher and Art Director, rolled into one.
The clincher in the offensive email was this person’s feeling that she was doing me a favor, rather than realizing that it is, in fact, the other way around. This condescending line stuck like a bone in my throat:
Umm... considering my bylines appear in national and regional print and online publications, most actually consider me a journalist, thank you very much. It would be appropriate to “treat me” as such. I was also a bit insulted – on behalf of myself and other bloggers – at the implication that bloggers are somehow lowlier than journalists, and not to be taken as seriously. Ironically, most bloggers I know are far more informed about a specific topic than the majority “staff writers.” And, believe me when I tell you that many of those “serious journalists” rip-off content from our blogs, on a regular basis, because we have become the experts in our niches.
Lesson #5: Understand the difference between a blog post and a magazine article.
Being a professional writer includes having the skill to change writing style, tone - and even the rules - when writing for any particular outlet. My blog "voice" is completely different from my magazine articles. I use the “first person,” spout my opinions and am influenced by my own biases. Its a free-form arena. I write exactly the way I want to, when I want to, about what I want to. If you like my style, pitch me your clients. If you don’t, there are a whole slew of other cocktail bloggers out there. Have at ‘em. Or, better yet, forget the Internet and stick with print.
Lesson #6: Become acquainted with what I call “the power of the blog.”
You see, back in 2005, when I held my final “salary job,” I was a restaurant publicist. Our PR firm had begun pitching food bloggers. At the time, I didn’t totally get what a blog was – but I knew it tapped into a valuable demographic many print publications didn’t reach. When I finally “hopped the fence” to write full time, in January 2006, the first thing I did was launch The Liquid Muse where I blogged, daily, because I had become so passionate about spirits, wine and cocktails. I took a 100% pay cut. Even today, my blog is a labor of love. The fact that thousands of people, every month, stop by to get their cocktail updates at The Liquid Muse is of huge personal satisfaction to me, and provides a valuable service to both the liquor companies and the readers, if I do say so myself. And, my readers know I’m not stifled by editors, publicists or advertisers. This is the power of the blog.
Lesson #7: Print is dying. Be nice to bloggers.
You see, friends, paper and ink publications will one day be a thing of the past. I’m not saying I like it. I don’t. I love cuddling up with a book, poring over a magazine and flipping through the Sunday paper. But, every single major publication now has a website. And, guess what else they are rapidly incorporating? Yes, BLOGS! And, there is someone writing those blogs. Guess who? Let’s say it all together, now… BLOGGERS! If you are a publicist who has not yet educated yourself with a healthy respect for blogs, it would behoove you to do so. Unless you want to go the way of the dinosaurs, along with print, and take your clients down with you.
Friday, March 28, 2008
I often get emails from Sipsters in Los Angeles asking me for great places to hang out when the work day is through. In order to provide more of that kind of helpful content, I'm happy to introduce you to Brenda Wachel, who is my new ‘girl around town’ at The Liquid Muse. Brenda focuses directly on guiding you to dine and drink during that magical after-work, before-dinner interlude, otherwise known as Happy Hour. Welcome to the first installment of Brenda’s Bytes!
Vin Bar showcases a lighter, more casual way to experience the innovative flavors and unforgettable wines of Valentino, Piero Selvaggio’s Michelin-rated Italian restaurant. Amid dark wood bar tables and cushioned chairs against umber walls and marble flooring, a well-heeled crowd unwinds while enjoying ephemeral bites and one of the most extensive wine lists in Los Angeles.
Specials include a choice of two dishes from the Vin Bar Menu (featuring antipasta, pasta, meat and fish) and a dessert for $35. Or, choose three plates with dessert for $42. Proving that wine doesn’t have to be expensive to be memorable, a glass of wine or prosecco starts at $10.
While the full dinner menu is available, the Vin Bar Menu provides some exceptional choices including hand-made pappardelle spiced with chocolate and tossed in a Maine lobster ragu; plates of crispy Mediterranean tuna burgers accented by red pepper coulis; Italian sashimi with anchovies and salad; and in an unusual twist, homemade strawberry and heirloom tomato jam with organic peanut butter and a touch of foie gras elevates the classic American PBJ sandwich from ordinary to extraordinary.
Chef Giacomo Penettore has even created a specialty drink to finish the tastings – a cappuccino, consisting of foamed milk, orange blossom water, and a hint of nutmeg – a wonderful endnote.
VALENTINO VIN BAR
3115 PICO BLVD
Evian by Christian Lacroix
While tooling around a wine tasting in Los Angeles a few days ago, I came across this intriguing item. I'm guessing that amid all the 'noise' energy drinks are making these days, fancy designer water is floating downstream, away from the lime light. In an effort to recapture our attention, and material desires, companies such as Evian, are turning to celebrities in the fashion world.
I have to admit that this bottle is stunning. It makes the cobalt and red Ty Nant bottles of yore seem incredibly passe. I would buy a bottle of this Lacroix Evian, if only to stick flowers in it as a conversational centerpiece for a springtime dinner on my patio. I'm not sure I'd shell out upwards of $20 for it on ebay simply to tote it in my gym bag, though. But, hey, as proven in fashion-forward vintage stores around the world, one woman's recycling is the center of another woman's wardrobe...
Don’t be fooled into thinking that all the swanky stuff happens in the Western parts of Los Angeles. Morton’s Steakhouse, yes, the one in the Valley, recently held a tasting which featured yummy Imperia vodka cocktails (such as the Thyme Lemon Drop Mortini in this photo) and Petrossian caviar, smoked salmon – and, of course, passed mini filet mignon sandwiches on that wonderful Morton’s bread.
But, the surprise of the night came from a casual conversation with Morton’s peeps. Through inquiring about the bar’s cocktails, someone mentioned Utopia by Sam Adams – apparently, the most expensive beers in the world – available at Morton’s.
At $125 per bottle, people may think Utopia is purely a marketing ploy (like those $20,000 martinis “garnished” with jewels). But, after being treated to a taste, I can honestly say that it is a quality product. It tastes something like a yeasty, effervescent port wine with molasses and almost ripe plum-like and cherry tones. It has the muscle of an after dinner cognac but with a totally unique twist… an after-dinner beer, maybe?
If paired with food, I can imagine it with a bowl of cheese soup and hearty, earthy brown bread. Or, alongside a hulking hunk of perfectly cooked steak and creamy mashed potatoes. It would also be incredible with a molten chocolate fondue cake.
In any case, the moral of this story is not to underestimate the other side of the 405. You never know where you’ll find a little sip of Heaven.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Makes Me Feel Like A Lucky Bitch
I have the most awesome job in the world (being The Liquid Muse comes with its perks, ya know...) One of them is trying out new products before the general public even knows they exist. And, I relish it.
I am also a total cocktail geek - as exemplified when I got a teeny-tiny sample of St. George Absinthe in the mail today. These are very limited. I did my own little happy dance. And, I dare say that I feel rather lucky. ("Go shorty, its your birthday...")
St. George Spirits has a whole line of acclaimed eaux de vie, whiskeys and vodkas. But... did you know that they are about to unleash an absinthe into the world? Yes, our very own, home-grown, Northern Californian absinthe. And, I got one of the first samples... a teeny, weeny-just-tease-you-for-the-f***-of-it sample. It almost hurts more to taste something so fabulous and know its scarcity, than never to taste it all. (If you've ever had hot sex in your life, you know what I'm talking about...)
St. George's absinthe is beautiful. The aroma transports you to a place reserved for fuzzy lambs and four leaf clovers. The taste - oh yeah, I sipped it straight to know what it was all about - is pungent, flowery, sweet and a little bit dangerous. Its seductively feminine and powerfully masculine. It walks the line between come hither and get-out-of-my-face. It is everything a spirit should be. Doldrums be gone.
Ok, so its not French. We've stolen and bastardized many things from them before (French fries, French kissing) and made them our own. Why should absinthe be any different? St. George is our absinthe. We claim it. We drink it. Screw off, non-believers. (woops, pardon my French)
Monday, March 24, 2008
Have you heard of Tito’s vodka? I’m hoping that you haven’t because that will make this post all the more enticing to those who shun the masses for the love of the unique.
Let’s start out by saying that I love to see the little guys succeed. Especially when they’ve poured every ounce of their passion – and their pocketbook – into their product. (As a little guy, myself, I can relate.)
Therefore, when I got a sample of Tito’s Handmade Vodka in the mail, I may have been pre-disposed to approach it with optimism. I wanted to like it… and even more… I didn’t want to be disappointed. I want to drink and discover the “under-the-radar” vodka that the former PBR hipsters are now sucking down on the sly. Happily, this “micro-distilled” spirit - from the only legal distillery in Texas - did not let me down.
Tito’s vodka is made by Tito Beveridge who lives in the very hip Texas town of Austin where, in 1995, he decided to max out 19 credit cards and live his dream. Since then, his 6-times distilled 100% corn vodka has won the “Unanimous Gold Medal” at the World Spirits Competition and the company has grown to where Tito can not only pay off the credit cards but hold his own in the drippingly saturated “boutique” vodka market.
I love knowing that I’m tasting something that is crafted with care, and a little heart-and-soul. I take my hat off to Tito’s and give a “yippee-yi-yay” to his success. If you want to join the cool kids and drink under the radar with the vodka rebels, visit here. Tell them The Liquid Muse sent you…
By Natalie Bovis-Nelsen (as seen in Real Talk LA)
Do you still buy into the notion that you have to spend a lot for decent wine? Do you take pride in referring to yourself as a “wine snob” and sneer at those who pay single-digit prices for a bottle of vino? You may be in for a mind-opening, and money-saving, surprise.
Until recent years, when it came to buying wine, many people assumed that more expensive is more impressive. But, let’s face it – few can afford a legendary Chateau Margaux for a Tuesday night pasta dinner, at home. Nowadays, Americans are increasingly enjoying the simple luxury of pairing a meal with an interesting wine, without breaking the budget.
Contrary to what many people in the US may believe, there has always been a large selection of affordable wines in European supermarkets and bodegas. In Spain, France or Italy, drinking wine with the main meal of the day is not uncommon, regardless of economic status. When buying meat or vegetables at the market, the consumer may pick up a $3 or $4 bottle to accompany a simple meal.
Charles Shaw wines, which cost a mere $1.99 per bottle, turned the American wine industry upside down since its debut, in 2002. Now celebrating its 5-year anniversary, “Two Buck Chuck,” as it is affectionately called, is owned by Branco Wines, in Napa Valley. Nephew to wine giant Ernest Gallo, Branco CEO Fred Franzia owns 30 brands of wine, resulting in sales of over $300 million per year. Franzia has publicly stated that he believes no bottle of wine is worth more than $10.
Charles Shaw wine is available exclusively at Trader Joe’s, which offers a large selection of wines under $20, with many in the $5 – 8 range. According to a spokesperson for the supermarket chain, Trader Joe’s buys wine, such as Charles Shaw, directly from the producer. Using this business practice allows for bulk purchase without a middle-man, lowering the cost of presenting products to consumers.
So, how does being less expensive affect the quality of wines stocked on the shelves? All wines carried in Trader Joe’s pass the company’s tasting panel. One manager, who participated in an in-store employee wine tasting, said he preferred Two Buck Chuck over some others in the $13 range. He explains, “Every body’s tongue is different. Some customers say its crap but others come in and buy it by the case.”
Jeff Zimmitti, owner of Rosso Wine Shop in Glendale, agrees that attitudes in the wine world are changing, “A wine connoisseur these days is not just the one chasing older vintage Petrus or La Tache. In fact, the new breed of wine lover is most jazzed by finding that 126-year-old-vine Carignan from Cote de Catalanes for under twenty.”
However, Zimmitti encourages someone looking for wine at a good price to check out a neighborhood wine shop. In fact, the home page of the Rosso Wine Shop specifically welcomes the wine enthusiast “disenchanted with Trader Joe’s.” He explains, “Specialty wine shops are the way to go for finding those hidden gems that every wine connoisseur looks for… And beyond that, once you have made a connection at a specialty shop, you are likely to open an ongoing dialog, which will lead to many other new discoveries.”
Whether you decide to pick up a bottle of an inexpensive vintage from Trader Joe’s on your way home from work, or spend a little more time discussing options in a wine store, one thing is for sure. Enjoying wine on a regular basis is becoming a more accessible, and more affordable, practice. And, that is something worth toasting!
I celebrated the Holiest day of the year like any good Catholic girl would... by creating a themed alcoholic libation. (Hey, we drink wine in church - why shouldn't we continue our 'worship' at home?)
This refreshing little sipper is fab for a summer dinner party, book club meeting or to dress up a casual barbeque. It looks pretty but it is easy and cheap to make!
Step 1) Make raspberry lemonade ice cubes by filling an ice tray with lemonade and plopping one fresh raspberry into each cube. Freeze overnight.
Step 2) Fill a large wine glass with about 3 regular ice cubes and 2-3 raspberry lemonade ice cubes.
Step 3) Fill about 3/4 with cheap white wine. I used two-buck Chuck chardonnay. (aka: Charles Shaw from Trader Joe's).
Step 4) Add a splash of lime-flavored sparkling water.
Sidenote: Make this drink non-alcoholic by using my favorite alcohol-removed chardonnay, Fre by Sutter Home! Speaking of which... have you sent in your recipe for our wine cocktail contest? The winner gets a trip for two to fabulous Las Vegas!
One of the many things I appreciate about dining “European style” is the way alcohol is incorporated into a meal. Whether in a fine restaurant, or eating al fresco in one’s own backyard, an apertif (appetite opener) before the meal, a glass or two of wine to enhance the food, and a digestif post-satiation is normal. As noted in my recent post on Dubonnet (an aperitif) it’s not “gourmet.” It’s just a way of life.
Having spent much of my life in Europe, I am happy to notice Americans coming around to this way of thinking. In LA, especially, people tend to think of having more than one drink as excessive. (Between being figure-obsessed and having to drive everywhere, this is not really a sophisticated "drinking town.") But, the thing that gets lost in translation is that an aperitif or digestif is not about excess. These before and after dinner drinks are not supposed to be guzzled to “get a buzz” the way too many young Americans approach a cocktail. Digestifs, in particular, are served in small glasses - often shot glass sized - but meant to be sipped, enjoyed… not slammed down the hatch.
The change of mentality is reflected in Averna’s proud announcement that the products in its first ever line expansion received high acclaim at this year’s San Francisco World Spirits Competition. The traditional Averna Amaro was presented a Gold Medal while the company’s newest arrivals, Averna Sambuca and Averna Sambuca Licorice received Double Gold and Silver, respectively. The new Averna Limoni got Bronze.
I’ve tried each of these products myself. (I keep them in my secret stash at home.) Speaking from experience, I can say that both anis-flavored sambucas do the trick after a decadent creamy pasta. I love me some lemon … but I’d prefer the Limoni to be slightly less syrupy and a touch more tart. Still, I wouldn’t “kick it out of bed,” as the saying goes…
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Blessing of the Animals...
Since 1930, the beautiful tradition of blessing the little critters has taken place on historic Olvera Street, in downtown Los Angeles.
This ceremony is held in honor of the animal-loving Saint, San Antonio de Abad (St. Anthony of the Desert). On his Feast Day, the Catholic Church would allow animals to enter the church for a fertilty blessing. The ceremony also expresses grateful recognition of the tremendous services given to the human race by animals. Whether it be companionship, labor or a food source, animals continue to be integral to the survival and comfort of individuals and societies.
San Antonio's actual Feast Day is January 17, however the festival was moved to Easter weekend to help ensure good weather. (Something we don't generally worry about in LA... but why take a chance?)
Furry, scaled and feathered friends from all walks of life, and all corners of Southern California life, and beyond, were in attendance. Farm animals, zoo animals, puppies, kitties, rabbits, reptiles were driven, carried, walked and rolled in to the plaza (town square) and mixed and mingled with the fellow faithful.
Being around so many animal lovers offered a great opportunity for children to learn compassion for all creatures and to acquaint themselves with otherwise unfamiliar faces from the animal world and to learn to respect rather than fear or abuse them.
I have been dying to see this festival for myself since I first learned about it when working a project for National Geographic Traveler, a few months ago. I was sent down to get photos of the location and fell in love with this mural, located just of the plaza and depicts the event. I've had the animal blessing on my calendar ever since, so there was no way I was going to miss all the action when the special day rolled around! I would have loved to bring my roley poley fat kitties down to get blessed but I know they would not have been down with lining up in the hot sun with a bunch of other pets. My little street rescues are way too high-maintenance for that!
The petting zoo was filled with baby animals. Billy goats, ducklings and my favorite baby pot belly pig. It is moments like this that make me regret that I like sausage so damn much!
Some of the animals waiting to be blessed were rescues, like the mom and baby turtle duo. I learned that many families get turtles or tortoises not realizing that how big they can get. Once they grow out of the initial container, the family may not want the creature anymore.
In addition to animal entertainers (aren't they all just naturals?), there were singing and dancing groups. The tiniest of those were, of course, the most adorable. The one little caballero amid the swirling, twirling girls in colorful skirts just melted my heart!
These little girls saw me whip out my camera and immediately did like Madonna and "struck a pose" and big smiles. (We are in L.A., afterall. Everyone wants to be a star.)
And, this polished dance troupe was every bit as professional as they look. They took this all very seriously, thank you very much.
Days like this remind me how lucky I am to live in a city filled with cultural diversity and colorful personality.
Viva Los Angeles. And, may you be blessed, too!
I recently had the very happy experience of spending a few days in a ‘home away from home’ suite at Hotel Palomar in Dupont Circle. Only it was just a little bit better than home…
In addition to a beautiful view of our Nation’s Capital, the room also came with a welcome bowl of m-n-m’s and my very own elliptical machine to work them off. Oh… and did I mention the Jacuzzi bath big enough to accommodate a few friends?
Also, the wake up call at Hotel Palomar isn’t a recording. A real, live person with a sweet, nurturing voice lulls you out of slumber and into the day. I wished I could have recorded that to take home with me!
Downstairs, my pal Jackie and I enjoyed cocktails with bread and artisnal olive oil as an aperitif before a delicious dinner at Urbana, the hotel’s restaurant and wine bar.
This sparkling cocktail is called Ambrosia. It features hibiscus syrup and a cool edible flower garnish. Kevin the hotel bar’s Mixologist, also makes a refreshing Basil Collins, which has just the right amount of sweet and tart. I know Jackie (a blushing bride-to-be) agrees that next to diamonds, a great cocktail is a girl’s best friend!
The next night I ordered dinner in my cozy room and ate an exceptional Parma pizza piled high with prosciutto, arugula and shaved parmesano cheese in my furry bed. The pizzaiolo, downstairs, hand makes every pizza from scratch and cooks it in a firery oven. The result is a crust as crisp and light as in Italy topped with fresh herbs and quality cheeses and meats.
My last night at the Palomar, I opted to manga in the hotel bar. I treated myself to a full bottle of a fabulous Rompicollo sangiovese-cabernet. (No, despite my best efforts, I didn’t finish it on my own…). I had this along with three small plates – the pumpkin ravioli, a wonderful lamb ragu and the chef kindly sent out an order of succulent scallops, which were so freakin’ plump and juicy, they just melted on the tongue.
All I can say is that I cannot wait to go back to DC for Jackie and Tony’s wedding, next month, and stop in at the Palomar for a drink and a nibble…
Thursday, March 20, 2008
See how an American-inspired dish at a French-inspired bistro whipped up by a French chef and paired with a California microbrew by an American sommelier come together in a delicious pairing by Cedric Maupillier and Brian Zipin of Central in Washington DC --- for a good cause, to boot!
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
While watching the recent TV special on England’s Royal Family, I made a mental note that the Queen’s favorite cocktail is gin and Dubonnet. This thrilled me to no end because I had recently bought a bottle of Dubonnet.
My mom, who is English, sipped a glass of it nearly every evening while making dinner, while I was growing up. So, when I saw it on the shelf at BevMo, a little shiver of nostalgia got the best of me, and I decided to take some home. Dubonnet is not expensive or one of those ‘trendy’ drinks every bar is slapping on its menu --- which is actually one more reason to like it, in my opinion. But for some reason, I still felt almost a little defensive placing it in my shopping cart.
Created by Joseph Dubonnet, the fortified wine was intended to help the French Foreign Legion drink down their malaria medicine. Like the gin-and-tonic drunk by the English brigade in India, this health aid soon became a popular drink. Like Campari, Dubonnet is more commonly enjoyed in Europe than the States --- again, one more reason to imbibe. (“Trendy” is not always better…)
You can leave your imprint on history by submitting your own Dubonnet cocktail to www.doyoudubonnet.com. After all, if its good enough for Her Majesty, what are you holding out for?
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Just Make Sure You Don't Suck!
I recently completed a 4-day course at the Travel Channel Academy in Silver Spring, Maryland. Whew. Intense.
My goal was to learn to shoot and edit video for my website. My earlier attempts at The Liquid Muse Cocktail Show prove that I needed a little guidance in this department...
I can practically hear the voice of our teacher Michael Rosenblum in my head yelling, "That Sucks!" if he were to look at my first solo attempts, from last year, when I made the Snowcone Cocktail with its horrible audio, jump cuts and bad camera angles, or even my Puerto Rican Mojito, which is slightly better (mostly because its much shorter) but still a long way from where it could be.
But, hey, I've never gone to film school and I was feeling this all out on my own. So, whatever.
During the TC bootcamp, we each made two short videos. Mine are Fresh Noodles and Perfect Pairings. Actually, Fresh Noodles was a re-shoot of what I originally shot that morning. I had spent several hours getting out to Virginia and filming Gina, one of my favorite bartenders, preparing her drink for the upcoming Taste of the Nation cocktail competition. When I took my footage back to the class, Lisa (Michael's partner) said it looked too "directed" and I should seriously consider a re-shoot. My heart sank. Wow - I sucked. I had no idea what to film instead.
I sat there for 10 minutes feeling like a total loser. Then, an image flashed through my head... the noodle guy... I'd shoot the noodle guy at Chinatown Express. Only problem is that it was 5:15 pm, and no restaurant will let you film during their busy dinner service. Crap! I was desperate. I hopped on the subway went to DC's Chinatown anyway.
I think the owner of the restaurant recognized the desperation on my face. "Please," I said, "I know its dinner time, I'll be quick. Only 15 minutes." A couple of hours later, I had about 12 minutes of video shot. Michael had said not to bother coming back with less than 15.
I woke up at 2 am, fretting. I'd spent a ton of money and carved out the time to do this. I didn't want to suck.
Like a blubbering fool, I couldn't stop hot tears from rolling down my cheeks as my husband gave me a pep talk over the phone. He was in Holland on a business trip. I was on the morning train from downtown DC to Silver Spring. "I just want this to be good," I whined. "You just want to be the best," he surmised. I hate it when he brings up my competitive streak when I'm doing something I'm struggling with.
I tinkered around with Final Cut and the Academy staff helped me with audio transitions. My palms poured sweat when we screened our first round of films. Although Michael described the ending of my film "Fresh Noodles" as 'banal,' overall, he liked it. In fact, it was one of his favorites of the day. Enthused, relieved, revived, I headed back on the train with a smile on my face and hope in my heart. Yippee!! I didn't suck!
The next day was even more nerve wracking when I set out to film the second project. Slightly more confident, I shot 40 minutes of footage at Central where chef Cedric Maupillier and sommelier Brian Zipin were creating a soup-and-beer pairing. I filmed far too much, and fell far too in love with too many shots, and crammed a whole bunch of them into my next film "Perfect Pairings." Michael said it was good but had too many fast cuts. He called it "raggedy," a word which haunts me even now. He isn't wrong.. but, "raggedy" is so not what I want my work to be. I am, however, inspired to keep practicing and get good. Get really, really good. (Doh - there's that competitive streak...)
The two best videos in our class were of a guy juggling a bowling ball, tennis racket and soccer ball by Andrew Wong of California; and North Carolinian Mike Unruh's video of himself taking the Travel Channel Academy course. Both were well shot, well edited, and well... the best in class. And, they will appear on the Travel Channel website! (Bravo, gentlemen!!)
Overall, the course was really fun and really stressful but I feel I learned some important stuff. I think there is a vast improvement regarding the basics: how to handle a camera, and the very beginning of my skill with using Final Cut editing software.
If you're thinking of adding video to your repertoire, the Travel Channel Academy is an effective, though brain-crushing, crash course in guerilla film making. It costs a pretty penny, so if you're on a budget - forget about it. However, if you can pony up more than $3000 for the course, rentals, hotel, airfare, meals, etc., you, too, can learn to vlog your way to internet stardom... and eat a healthy helping of humble pie paired with an intoxicating elixir called 'optimistic aspirations' in the process...
Saturday, March 15, 2008
In case you're planning to visit our Nation's Capital for a big St.Patrick's Day celebration, make note of this noodle soup. It just happens to be a great for hangovers... Erin Go Bragh, y'all!
Monday, March 10, 2008
The English and Irish have at least one thing in common… they both love to drink! Make like shiny, happy people and toast the Emerald Isle with a classic-style English gin. (The recipes are even in metrics!)
50 ml Plymouth Gin
25 ml Lime Cordial
25 ml Sparking Water
Pour in Plymouth Gin and Lime Cordial into a rocks glass. Top with Sparkling Water. Stir and add cucumber garnish.
50 ml Plymouth Gin
35 ml Lemon Juice
15 ml Maraschino Liqueur
1 dash Syrup de Gomme
Pour Plymouth Gin, lemon juice (freshly squeezed), maraschino liqueur and syrup de gomme into an ice-filled mixing glass. Shake well. Strain into a martini glass. Add lemon zest garnish.
I recently popped into Kumo in West Hollywood to try the black vinegar cocktail I’d been hearing about. I tried such cocktails in London’s trendsetting libational landscape and was intrigued that such forward-thinking ideas were taking root in L.A., which is not yet recognized as a drinking destination of note in cocktailian circles.
Sitting at the all-white bar, in the all-white eatery (Kumo means “cloud” in Japanese), the first thing that struck me was the energy and excitement behind the bar. James Bobby is Kumo’s head barman and responsible for most of the inspired drinks. The bartender working alongside him, Fred, shared his enthusiasm for a quality tipple. A rare but exciting thing to see in La-La-Land.
Of course, it helps that both of these guys are from Chicago – a town whose cocktail bars have been recognized for innovation and a place where (unlike AA-saturated Los Angeles) a good drink goes hand-in-hand with a great night out. To me, a bartender is integral to that experience, something that Bobby understands. He recognizes that sometimes a guest will want to connect with the bartender, and have a friendly chat or air the grievances of the day. He jokes, “Sometimes even a bartender needs a good bartender.”
Kumo is also a Japanese restaurant and if you go in for a sushi fix, make note of the dramatic digital artwork by Chiho Aoshima (see photo above). His piece, titled “City Glow” spans five plasma TV screens, and the piece is one of only five in existence. It gives the space a joyful sort of Jetsons-meets-Harijuko feel. I did not experience the food but was not disappointed by what I came in to try…
The Black Margarita blends Patron tequila, Citronage, homemade sour and a splash of black vinegar. The whole thing is shaken and served on the rocks with a lavender salt rim. I love the balance of acid against the sweetly sour citrus notes, and tequila is a distinctive enough spirit not to get lost in the mix. Bravo. That’s one I’d have again.
I also enjoyed the Kumokaze, which James says he dreamed up while chatting with the chef, one night. They both agreed that the restaurant needed its own namesake on the cocktail menu. This drink is blue and white as an homage to clouds, and it tastes both spicy and sweet. The spicy kick of chil-infused vodka is softened with a little honey syrup, and leaves your tastebuds in orbit. Until you float back down to Earth, and order another, anyway...
2 ounces Japanese Takanotsume peppers steeped Ketel One Vodka
1 1/2 ounces Blue Curacao
1 ounce homemade sour mix (lemon, lime, and orange juices sweetened with honey)
1/4oz Honey Syrup to taste
1/4oz Blueberry Puree
Served with a large sugar rim
Shake all ingredients, strain into an ice-filled , sugar rimmed rocks glass.
Photos: Claire Barrett Photography
Sunday, March 09, 2008
Romance Your Sweetie By Winning the Blush Challenge...
Like cocktails and looove wine? Then Sutter Home Wine has the contest for you! Enter here to submit your best blush wine cocktail and you could win a fabulous get away for you and someone you want to get "sinful" with in Sin City!
The Sutter Home folks will choose the top 10 recipes and The Liquid Muse will select the lucky winner! Check back here for video footage of the top 3...
And, I'm not saying I'm open to bribes... but I have been admiring that new Mercedes...
"Making the Most of the Media"
My "credentials" include: Providing Mixology services (customized cocktails for parties and personalities); Editor of The Liquid Muse; I pen two monthly cocktail columns (one regional, one internationally syndicated) and freelance for other magazines. My non-alcoholic cocktail book (featuring original recipes) comes out in December. (I start Book Two next month.)
Our seminar was aimed at helping bars, restaurants and liquor companies make the most of the media. I've extracted some highlights from our seminar and added some personal notes:
2. Read several back issues of the targeted publication so you can suggest where your story / product might fit.
3. Explain your idea in 300 words or less, include contact info, any timely details.
4. Make your story idea specific and unique. Everyone says, “We have an awesome premium vodka!” A better pitch is: “Our awesome premium vodka is the only one in the world made from banana peels! We’re serving it to the Queen of England for her birthday bash held on a rocket ship to Jupiter!”
5. Send jpgs of the product / place / event with the pitch. Low-res is fine for online, and high-res 300 dpi is necessary for print.
6. Follow up by email a week or so later.
My personal requests, particularly regarding The Liquid Muse:
1. The Liquid Muse is devoted to cocktails, liquors, wines, bars, restaurants, destinations (travel) and the people related to them, with a particular focus on high-end / luxury angles. So, if you send me a “I (heart) Teddy Bears” T-shirt or ask me to publicize your beer-bong-a-thon, please understand that you are not talking to my demographic audience.
2. Don’t send me a press release about your new liquor and expect me to write about it without receiving a sample. Trust me, it’s not for yet another bottle of booze – my home bar over-floweth. I simply won't publicize a liquor I haven’t tasted.
3. Sending a sample doesn’t guarantee coverage. If I don't like the product, I’m probably not going to spend time writing about it. Ultimately, this is better for your product. I often write about things I love right away. If I'm too busy right then, I keep them in mind for future coverage.
4. Don't harrass me or write snippy follow up emails! If a review hasn’t gone up in a timely manner, keep in mind that my blog is a labor of love. I don’t make much money off it. If you aren’t paying for a review or advertisement, you are in line with all the other folks who want free publicity. Paying gigs always come first. A sample bottle of $12 booze, is not payment.
5. Refer to #2 – 4 for bar, restaurant and event coverage.
6. Send pitches via email. Do NOT pitch by phone. If I answer my phone, I’m usually driving. I live in LA. Driving is my very limited personal phone time. Don’t mess with it unless we have an appointment to speak by phone, or you'd like a Liquid Muse Signature Cocktail for an interesting and lucrative liquor launch or upcoming event. Then, please feel free to call me. If you want to pitch your bar or product for free publicity on my website, an email does the trick.
7. How can we work together? I'm always willing to cross-promote and team up on the right opportunities. E-me, then let's talk... I'm gearing up to re-vamp my website yet again, so I'm open to opportunities.
Please understand that I welcome your emails, press releases, invitations and product samples. I wish I had 6 employees because things would move a little faster on my end. I want to know what your PR clients are doing. I want to write about that fabulous new liqueur. I want to discover your restaurant / hotel / destination. Yes, I go on press trips.
I want to share all the fantastic, delicious, impressive things I experience with anyone who will listen. We want the same thing in the end --- we want to help people know how and where to spend their precious leisure time and money. And, they want to know, too. Help me help you, and we all win!
Saturday, March 08, 2008
Toasting St. Tropez With Provencal Absinthe in Beverly Hills
I had one of those “I’ve arrived” moment when I received an invitation to the 4-Star Byblos Hotel's 40th Birthday Party at the Playboy Mansion. Forget Disneyland. St. Tropez’s hottest hotel and its nightclub “Les Caves du Roy” throwing an anniversary bash at the Playboy Mansion is the “happiest place on Earth” as far as I’m concerned.
I stayed at the Byblos, a few years ago, with some friends from Paris. We had our own table at “Les Caves” at the side of the dance floor for the week. By the end of our stay, I’d probably had one too many champagne showers spewed from $1000 magnum bottles all over my sticky sunburned skin and party dresses. But, as you can see in this photo from that vacation, I reveled in the hedonistic French Riviera none-the-less.
(Sidenote: I grew up spending summers with my French grandparents down the coast in Beaulieu Sur Mer. Let's just say that its way better as a grown up, and without a chaperone...)
World famous DJ Jack E’s nightly declarations at Les Caves are almost as famous as the discotheque itself. “Weeelcooome Back to Saaaaaaaint Tropeeeez!” reverberates around the world beckoning the high-flying “rich and famous.” Guests at the Playboy Mansion were treated to Jack E’s spinning during the party (pictured here).
Unsurprisingly, my friend, photographer Claire Barrett (pictured here raising a glass near the Grotto) and I were the first ones up and dancing!
Anyone who checks in with The Liquid Muse knows that I am a Playboy fan, and have seen every episode of "The Girls Next Door.” I even have a collector’s edition of Playboy from 1981 featuring “Playmate Roommates: Imagine These Girls Next Door.” Kinda weird to think that Kendra (current girlfriend #3 in ranking) wasn’t even born when that pictoral was shot!
One of the most fun projects during my career as a Mixologist was creating four poker-themed cocktails for the Celebrity Poker Tournament at the Playboy Mansion, last April. Although the "girls" weren’t there I had a blast and even got my photo taken in the Grotto (wearing a suit, like a total dork)! This time, Holly, Bridget and Kendra were at the party being filmed and photographed with Hef, sequestered in a tiny section of the giant tent party surrounding the infamous Grotto. So, we didn't really get to mingle with them, much to my chagrin...
However, just like my last visit to their legendary home, my big dilemma for the Byblos party was: “What do you wear to the Playboy Mansion when you’re 30-something, married and packed on a few pounds since the wedding?” Luckily, over time, I’ve realized that people are more inclined to overlook imperfections if you dazzle ‘em with cleavage. Which was exactly what I went for when I bought this dress.
Other party guests included American Idol’s Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson and Ryan Seacrest, shown here lounging on the couch. Matthew Modine and Dr. Gary Atler of Dr. 90210 also took in the festivities.
All the while, a couple of little minions from TMZ snuck in and out of their environ to make notes on who was picking their nose or other such oh-so-fascinating reports for which TMZ is known.
Back on the red carpet, these adorable Playboy bunnies posed for photos with guests. I just love the little fur coats and matching furry tails! Apparently the Byblos and Caves du Roy team did, as well. Pictured here are the Byblos / Caves du Roy big-wigs: Stephan Personi, DJ Jack E, Antoine Chevanne and "Junior."
The party was a smashing success despite the unusual rainy weather. The bartenders were awesome, and Joe (in this picture) has worked for Hef for a decade!
At this party, I also tried Versinthe Absinthe for the first time. Versinthe is made in Provence and won the “silver” place at Absinthiades Pontarlier, a French absinthe competition.
In addition to traditional absinthe, Versinthe also makes "La Blanche," or white absinthe. It is crystal clear and has a wonderful, smooth anis flavor. It also has the maximum legal thujone level, so the absinthe-champange cocktails this bartender and I experimented with were potent, indeed!
Jack E.'s music made me wish I could follow the Byblos crew around the world as they continue on this global anniversary tour. After LA, they hit Moscow, London, Paris, Milan and wrap up with its closing bash at the Cannes Film Festival in May.
Antoine Chevanne, owner of the Byblos, extended a personal invitation to Hef and the girls for to stick around for a bit this summer. (No, I’m not jealous. Ok, maybe just a teeny, weeny bit. Alright, I'm green with both Absinthe and envy!)
Which made the goodie bags we received upon leaving extra sweet. In addtion to Sisley Cosmetics, we were presented with the not -yet released Volume 3 Byblos CD and small bottles of Versinthe Absinthe - both the traditional and “La Blanche.” They thoughtfully included an absinthe spoon, absinthe-infused chocolate and even absinthe perfume for him and her.
Needless to say, my "happy place" has nothing to do with Mickey Mouse but rather Green Fairies and Hef's Cottontails prancing hand-in-hand around the Grotto, while I groove on the dance floor to the tunes of a world-famous DJ. The only thing that would make it better is transporiting the whole kit-and-kaboodle to the sandy beaches of St. Tropez... and something tells me that party may not be too far off...
"Official" photos are courtesy of: Brian Lindensmith- Patrick McMullan. The rest of the snapshots belong to: The Liquid Muse