Monthly Archives: October 2010

American Visionary Art Museum Offers Free Admission Today

Well, here it is Sunday again. Caw Caw and Purple Reign and all that. We’re still not that into it. And aside from the few tiny home improvement chores still on our list, we’re going to be looking for something non-football related to entertain ourselves with today.

The Visionary offers free admission today. 11am-3pm.

Fortunately, this week it’s a pretty easy choice. We had such a good time at the BMA’s Warhol exhibit last week, that another museum trip seemed like an obvious choice for this Sunday. Even better, the AVAM is offering free admission today as part of Free Fall Baltimore.

If you ask the Chop, Free Fall Baltimore is just about the best thing that ever came out of City Hall, and if you don’t avail yourself of at least some of the program’s offerings, you’re just plain missing out on one of the best things about living in Baltimore. It’s making us smile from ear to ear.

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The American Visionary Art Museum is at 800 Key Highway in Federal Hill. Today’s Free Fall hours are from 11am until 3 pm.

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An Evening With Greg Dulli @ Ottobar Tonight

Well, if tonight’s show is anything, it’s proof that we’re out of touch. Almost cool. You might think we have our finger on the pulse of the scene, but we do not. We have it up our nose.

We went ahead and bought a ticket for tonight’s Greg Dulli show in advance since we were on the Missiontix site anyway. We figured it would be a pretty low key Saturday night, with just a few aged scenesters drinking heavily and gnashing their teeth at the thought of being 22 again with their present bitter, jaded knowledge of how the world works. Hell, even though Dulli is touring nationally and about to split for England, tickets were only $12.

Greg Dulli plays the Ottobar tonight. 8 pm Doors.

So we were surprised when the show not only sold out, but sold out well in advance. We’d tried to track down an extra ticket for a friend from New York, and came up empty handed. Word is that the very few tickets available at resale are going for up to five times face value. With that kind of demand, you’d think they would have cost more initially, or that they would have booked the show into a bigger venue. Oh well. We’ll see how it goes.

Perhaps it’s fitting that we’re way out of touch on this one. We were pretty well aware of the Afghan Whigs during their Gentlemen/ Black Love heyday. As a 12 or 13 year old kid who knew very little about music (or life) we thought they sounded good enough, but most of those songs went right over our head. You can’t expect a middle school kid to actually understand songs about hatefucking, cold revenge, solitude in company, and danger for danger’s sake. It wasn’t long before we caught on to the broad brush anthems of three chord punk and spent the next decade not looking back.

Sometime around our mid-to-late 20’s though, we began to rediscover a lot of this music of which we were dimly aware as a kid; Pavement, Mudhoney, Dinosaur Jr., Catherine Wheel, etc. Once we did, our admiration and appreciation for Dulli grew exponentially. We’re an adult now. We’ve been fired from jobs, scorned by women, abandoned by friends, dragged into courtrooms, drunk by noon, and and even, on occasion, betrayed by our own body. All of that happened.

It’s only now that we fully understand the music of Greg Dulli.

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Craig Wedren (Shudder to Think) opens tonight’s show. Ottobar is at 2549 N. Howard St. in Charles Village.

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How to Stock a Home Bar, Part 2

Welcome back, Choppers. In yesterday’s post we went over the problems with most bar-stocking advice at great length. Today we’re back to give you some solid advice on how to get started on building a bar that even Churchill himself would be proud of.

We told you yesterday that collecting 30 good bottles of liquor would not be as expensive or as difficult as one might imagine. Make no mistake though… it’s going to take a while. If you happen to have a large lump sum to blow on booze that’s all to the good. Most of you though, will be wanting to spread the cost out over time, by adding one or two bottles a week.

These posts make a couple of assumptions about you, Gentle Reader. They assume that if you’re going to acquire a piece of furniture for specific use as a bar or liquor cabinet, then you actually like to drink. We assume you’re the type who comes home from work and has three drinks to unwind, and then has a friend or a couple over on Saturday for four drinks. (And if anyone ever asks you how many drinks you’ve had, they’re an uncouth bastard. You will not answer with a number higher than 4 under any circumstance.) It assumes you know what you like and what your friends like, and that your tastes have evolved beyond your college years.

As we hinted before, we believe 30 bottles is the ideal number for the well stocked home bar. Any fewer might just leave you wanting for something particular in the wee hours. Any more will almost certainly gather dust and hang around way too long. Let us be very clear about this though; that 30 does not include wine. 90% Of bar guide books will suggest putting a few types of wine on your bar, and this is just plain wrong. Wine goes on the wine rack. We also assume that you own a wine rack.

This is pretty much what your weekends will look like with a proper bar in your house.

So with the wine out of the way, you can break down your 30 bottles into 7 different categories, which can be purchased individually in turn in the order of their utility. A hard and fast rule of bar stocking is this: Never return from the liquor store with a free hand. meaning that you should be buying at least 2 bottles at a time. One is the everyday bottle you went to the store to refill, and the other is stock to be put by for the future. In this way, in about 7 months of weekly trips to the liquor store, you should have a very well-supplied bar at home.

The Staples… 6 bottles.

These are what you definitely need to be shopping for first. They are the basic 6 liquors that you’ll find in any bar anywhere. They’re your everyday go-to’s, your speed rail, if you will. Whiskey, gin, vodka, brandy, rum and tequila. These don’t need to be very expensive at all, since you’re going to run through them. You do want to stick to name brands though. We’d recommend Jim Beam, Beefeater, Smirnoff, Bacardi, Cuervo, and Tariquet. (Which is actually Armagnac, but who cares? We like it and it makes a tasty Sidecar, so don’t be a nerd about it.) These are your minimums. You can adjust upwards as your taste and budget allows.

Variations… 8 Bottles

These are liquors of the same types as above, but of a slightly different type or a better quality. Example: One bottle of Cuervo might be plenty enough, but even though you like Beam okay, you still want to keep something better on hand like Buffalo Trace, as well as a good rye (Rittenhouse), 2 Scotches (Johnnie Walker and something in the $40-$50 range), a blend (Dickel) and an Irish (Tullamore Dew or Powers). You might even throw in a second gin and a dark rum.

Liqueurs… 6 Bottles.

These are going to be bottles that you use primarily as mellowing, sweetening, or flavoring agents in cocktails. They should be of at least the same quality as the base spirit, so do yourself a favor and stay away from the Mr. Boston and Bols shite down there on the bottom shelf. Six good choices would be: Kahlua, Cointreau, Domaine de Canton, St. Germain, Rumple Minze, and a Calvados or apple liqueur of some sort.

Vermouth… 2 Bottles.

Sweet red and dry white. You may think you can get by without them, but you can’t. Not even in the age of Red Bull. Smallish bottles of brand name stuff will pay dividends.

After Dinner Drinks… 2 bottles.

It’s handy to have something sweet on hand that you intend to drink one glass at a time. Nobody’s going to sit around and get drunk on sambucca, but sometimes it really hits the spot after a meal. Good choices in this category might be Pernod, Bailey’s, and Tia Maria.

Wild Cards… 4 bottles.

Use this category to fill in the gaps and experiment a bit. You might want to fill it up with more after dinner type drinks, or experiment with whatever catches your eye at the liquor store. At this point you’ve been collecting bottles for a while now, so you know what you’d like to try. You can also change it up once you empty a bottle.

Special Occasion Bottles… 2 Bottles.

These are your macho single malts and your VSOP or XO cognacs. Odds are you won’t even have to buy these bottles, as someone will likely notice you’ve built a hell of a bar, and may give you one as a gift. Likewise, they are what the name suggests. You’ll save them for a special occasion and share them as a gift with your guests for that occasion.

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You’ll need to round out the bar with mixers, maybe the two most important of which are bitters and simple syrup. get at least one bottle of bitters, and buy (or re-use) a dedicated bottle for simple syrup. you’re not going to be buying any of those pre-made gross grocery store mixers, so go ahead and boil some sugar. It’s really not hard.

For everything else, stick to small cans. You can skip whatever you’re in the habit of keeping in the fridge already. For instance, we usually have orange juice and ginger ale in the fridge at the Chophouse, so we don’t bother much with stocking bar sizes of it. You are going to want Coke, ginger ale, Sprite, club soda, tonic, OJ, cranberry, and the surprisingly versatile Minute Maid lemonade, as well as a can of tomato or v8 stashed way in the back just in case. We say experiment as much as you want with juice, but leave the flavored vodkas to the D.C. set.

The only other thing you’ll need is glassware. We swear by the double old-fashioned glass. It will in fact hold a nice double shot with room for sloshing if you’re drinking on the rocks, and is plenty big enough to build a highball in if you want some soda. It’s the only glass you’ll ever really need. If you have any room left, you might want to also go in for a decent set of cocktail glasses for serving drinks straight-up or neat. We recommend cocktail glasses without stems.

You won’t look or feel like Don Draper when you’re busy wiping that Negroni off your white sofa just because you wanted a set of “real martini glasses.”

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How to Stock a Home Bar, Part 1

As some of you may already know, we recently furnished our dining room here at the Chophouse. We’re exceedingly pleased with it, as it turned out looking and feeling even better than we thought it would. Thanks to the invention of the 180 degree flatscreen, we can even see the television from the head of the table, which means we might actually take meals in there more than once or twice a year.

Quite honestly; comparing furniture, installing lighting, trying to match napkins to placemats, and deciding from among thousands of paint colors can become a tedious chore after a while. There’s only been one step of the process which we’ve thoroughly enjoyed every step of the way… building the bar.

Every house should have a bar. Even if that house is a tent.

Well, not exactly. We already had a very serviceable home bar set up in the kitchen. But moving it into the dining room means it’s still a good opportunity to step things up an extra notch, and a good excuse to buy (and sample) a few new bottles.

As luck would have it, we also just picked up a copy of Jason Wilson’s Boozehound; On the Trail of the Rare, the Obscure, and the Overrated in Spirits and after the first 60 pages or so, we’re finding it pretty good. It’s conversational in tone, and Wilson is someone we’d definitely have a drink with. Still, he manages to fall into the same traps that virtually all drink and cocktail writers fall into.

People who adopt drinking as a hobby are almost exclusively of two types: Nerds and Frat Boys. Frat Boys (of any age) are pretty much self explanatory. Cocktail Nerds are a little more nuanced.

There are several things that nerds of all stripes will have in common, and one of them is that if you ask a nerd a simple question, you will get a very complicated answer. Ask a Star Wars nerd on which planet the rebels hideout was, and you’re likely to get an answer which includes the prequels, a full explanation of the rebels guerrilla structure, and the particulars of the Lucasfilm soundstage in the 1970’s.

So it is with Cocktail Nerds. Even something as simple as “What goes into a Manhattan?” will earn you a lecture on the merits of rye whiskey vs. bourbon, the type and ratios of vermouth, a lesson on the prohibition era, and a full discourse on bitters. Plus a snarky remark about cherries. On top.

This is the exact pitfall that catches Wilson in his book. Open up any mixing guide or bartender’s bible and you’ve got to sort through scores of pages of ridiculous recipes featuring arcane ingredients, endangered brands and preposterous combinations. Even modern guides and books talk about things like egg whites, grenadine, and Lillet with a straight face. It’s 2010. When’s the last time you saw anyone drinking a cocktail with grenadine?

By the same token, these books, as well as virtually every website out there will give you just plain bad advice on how to stock your bar. Most of them will just assume that you’re going to have some kind of huge party (and that you have them all the time) and that you’re going to be wowing your guests with your extensive knowledge and skill on the history and practice of bartending. Give us a break! Even fairly social people are usually drinking alone when they’re at home. When company does come over, they usually come just a few people at a time. It’s rare to meet an adult who hosts more than 2 medium-to-large scale parties at home each year. One or none is the norm.

This is why the Chop knows people with cabinets full of wedding booze that gather dust years after the wedding; because they followed bad advice on bar stocking when they threw the biggest party of their lives.What should be a source of pleasure and a point of pride becomes little more than a dusty, clangy, expensive eyesore.

So tomorrow the Chop is going to explain exactly how to build an impressive home bar to suit your own tastes, without all the nerdistry. And when we say impressive, we mean it. By the time you’re done you’ll have 30 bottles. There will be no sour apple pucker, no ancient bottle of sherry to impress Grandma, and most importantly: no Red Bull.

The best part? Building a full bar is cheaper and easier than you think. Stay tuned.

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P.S.- If you want to read writers who manage to talk about drinking in an interesting, engaging, and entertaining way, check out our drinking blogs blogroll, especially Modern Drunkard, NY Barfly, and Boozeblogger.

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The Five Worst Halloween Costumes of 2010

Year in and year out, we’re always surprised that people don’t just take the easy way out and dress for Halloween in a giant Summer’s Eve box, because there’s no shortage of douchebags running around Fells Point, Federal Hill, etc.

When Batman came out, you all had to be Batman. When Batman came out again, you all had to be the Joker. And frankly, few people can tell the difference between this vampire and that vampire and whatever zombie-come-lately the nerds have a nerd boner for this year.

This was played out 3 years ago. Don't keep making the same mistake.

But Some costumes cross the line from bad to worse; and then there are these. If you wear one of the following costumes out in public this year, you pretty much deserve to be socially shunned and never get laid again. You also deserve the dozens of photo tags that are bound to pop up in social media years from now, like when you’re looking for a job or being googled by your girlfriend’s parents. Have fun living these down.

5. Ben Roethlisberger The Chop is no fan of Ben Roethlisberger, that’s for sure. But you know what? Donning a black and yellow number 7 is in especially bad taste the way it’s done in Baltimore. It wasn’t funny when you showed up in a Steelers’ uniform with a bloody mangled knee, and it’s not going to be funny when you show up this year as Roethlisberger with a mug shot, or worse, with a giant erection. Don’t do it.

4. Mad Men The good folks over at Something Awful hit the nail on the head when they said “Even if you’re a handsome, suave dude it won’t work, because you don’t live in 1962. Your context sucks. Don Draper does not request extra corn salsa for his Chipotle burrito.” The rules don’t change because it’s Halloween. Just because you pawed through Salvation Army for an ugly, ill-fitting polyester suit doesn’t mean you look like Draper. It means you look like a moron.

3. The Jersey Shore There’s a reason the show is only 22 minutes long. Running around all night doing guido schtick in a bad Jersey accent is going to get old very quickly. There’s no subtle irony to the Jersey Shore costume, it’s just a douchebag dressing up like another douchebag. Besides, do you think you can do a better job of making fun of Jersey than South Park? You can’t.

2. Terrorist This one is now in perpetually poor taste. Whatever you do, do not don Arab dress, and wear a beard and bomb vest. It’s not going to impress anyone, and it’s going to piss a lot of people off. You may well even end up in a fight or in central booking, and you probably deserve it.

1. Chilean Miners Put away the hard hat, take off the sunglasses, and don’t you dare wave around a Chilean flag. Don’t ever forget that those workers were victims, and were being exploited by mine owners. This is one of the very rare instances where the whole world watches and cares about something important (i.e. not the Olympics or World Cup) at the same time, and your lame ass Halloween costume is only going to cheapen that.

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Top Five Cheap, Quick and Easy Halloween Costumes for Adults

We’re going to let you in on a little secret of etiquette, Baltimore. When an invitation says something is optional, that thing is damn well mandatory. A good host or hostess will be reluctant to push their guests around, even on paper. There are firm conventions in place though, and if you’re planning to attend a party or event that is ‘black tie optional’ and ‘gifts optional’, you had better show up in a tux with a nicely wrapped gift. You’ll look like a boorish clod if you don’t.

The same is true of ‘costume optional’ Halloween parties, whether they are a private affair or being held at a bar or some sort of festival. Halloween is now less than 2 weeks away, and if you’re still lacking a costume or are dropped a last minute invitation to a ‘costume optional’ party, you’ve got your work cut out for you.

Nothing says Halloween like raging alcoholic clowns.

Fortunately, the Chop is here to help. We’re happy to give you five solid costume ideas which can be assembled with a minimum of effort and expense, and which can easily be shed when the party ends, or if your plans include something that does not require a costume.

5. Priest The priest outfit is really nothing but black on black with a little white cardboard collar. You probably own most of it already. It can be good fun to do the priest schtick too: blessing people, taking confessions from ‘naughty schoolgirl’ costumers, and breaking out your crucifix or holy water to ward off anyone who may be dressed as a devil. Plus, people like the irony of seeing a priest get totally faced on hard liquor.

4. Fisherman Think fishsticks. This guy has the right idea, and he’s really selling it with the beard. If you forgo the beard, you can accessorize with a little green netting or manila rope. Yellow foul weather gear is available cheaply at places like Lowe’s and Home Depot, and of course, you can wear normal clothes underneath.

3. A Mexican Is this racist? Yeah. Probably. A little. But if you dressed in lederhosen or a kilt, no one would say boo, so why not. Besides, you can claim the moral high ground by claiming to be the (Colombian) coffee man Juan Valdez, or just by yelling “Do I look illegal?!?!?” directly into the face of anyone who questions you. A sombrero, a poncho, and a fake mustache and you’re pretty much good to go.

2. The Sheet It’s old hat on TV and in the movies, but you actually see very few people rocking the sheet-ghost costume. It’s the easiest thing in the world and good for a laugh every time. A sheet will also double as a toga with very little modification, so it’s basically 2 costumes in one. Why not?

1. Clown Okay, so a clown may not really be that easy. Makeup is kind of a commitment. Wig, shoes, gags; a lot goes into being a proper clown. We believe that the return is worth it though. Don’t underestimate the scariness of a clown outfit. More people than you think are totally freaked out by clowns. Besides, clowns are never so funny and awesome as when they’re out of context. Drinking heavily, making lewd remarks, and threatening violence are what takes the ordinary clown costume above and beyond all others. If we see you out on Halloween and you’re a clown, we’re totally going to buy you a drink.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post, in which we’ll be discussing the dumbest costume trend ideas of 2010. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

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The Chop’s Veracruz Cocktail Recipe

A lot of you may be scratching your heads on this one. You’re probably thinking to yourself ‘October is a great time for spiced cider drinks and rich, strong cocktails like Sidecars and White Russians. Why the hell is this blog giving me a recipe for a beach bar type cocktail? And you’re not wrong. But remember, we just returned from the desert. And it was hot in the desert. Even in the last week of September, it was hot enough to put us in mind of tequila.

A Veracruz vacation. Now available in a glass.

When you’re sitting out in a hot, dry desert during Ramadan, there’s nothing more natural than daydreaming about booze, which we did frequently, and which is exactly how this recipe came into our head. We had to wait until our return to gather the necessary ingredients, and it took a full 2 weeks of mixing and sipping to get this one down. The end result was certainly worth the wait.

The Veracruz

2 parts tequila

1 part pear juice

1 slice jalapeno

1 drop bitters

Cut a strip of jalapeno as thick as your taste will allow. Muddle it lightly in a few drops of pear juice, just enough to open up the flavor. Transfer the muddled pepper to a cocktail shaker full of ice and add the tequila, juice, and bitters. Stir thoroughly and strain into a cocktail glass.

*If a garnish is desired, a slice of fresh pear will work better than a slice of jalapeno. The drink should taste like a spicy fruit, and not a fruity vegetable.

*We’ve found that for one drink, a slice of pepper about the size of a nickel is just right. Be sure to remove the seedpod entirely. Having little pepper seeds floating around in your cocktail is less than appealing. Also, be careful not to slice the jalapeno too thin, lest tiny pieces of it end up in your glass.

*Pear juice is delicious, but it can be hard to find. We used Gerber brand juice from the baby food aisle, which is 100% juice. Pear nectar from the Goya aisle will not work in this recipe.

*Go easy on the bitters. One good drop really is quite enough.

*Finally, something like Jose Cuervo or Hornitos will work just fine for this. You always want to stay away from generic tequila, but for this drink, there’s no need to reach for the expensive stuff. Enjoy.

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