Tag Archives: Drinking

Occupy Liam Flynn’s: Our Bi-Weekly Political Roundup

Tomorrow is the second Wednesday of the month, and as usual some of Baltimore’s finest progressives of all stripes will gather for pints and politics in Station North. The Baltimore Chapter of Drinking Liberally meets twice a month at Joe Squared, Liam Flynn’s Ale House, which will be our new home for the Winter months. Meetings are 7 pm til whenever, and open to all. Just look for the big red, white and blue bottle on the table.

Of course the big story in the news right now is the Occupy Wall Street movement, which has now spread to more than 100 cities including our own. What was at first all but a non-story has become an ongoing top national headline for the last week or so. While much of that is attributable to those in the movement who are especially tech savvy, we suspect a lot of it has to do with just plain good luck. There’s not a whole hell of a lot else happening at the moment. The news has been pretty slow this week overall, so all we’ve got to blog about is Occupy.

We’re certainly no expert in protest and demonstration tactics, but we do know that the main thing in any protest is just showing up- boots on the ground, bodies in the crowd. The Participants have done a decent job of that, but unfortunately that’s about all they’ve done so far. It’s kind of like that scene in The Jerk where Navin is asked if he’d like to be president of Shell Oil. You don’t get to run the whole system just by showing up.

Ever since the movement came to Baltimore, we’ve been in an odd position. We’re actually very sympathetic to this cause, yet all we’ve done all week is find ourselves making snarky wisecracks at the Participants’ expense. We were at the harbor during the first day of the protest, when it was mainly 20-something kids from middle class backgrounds playing campout. Those kids are easy enough to make fun of, but the truth is we felt a little guilty about not participating. (Not much.) Stopping by again Yesterday morning though, the entire face of the thing had changed. people who are used to sleeping in nice beds and eating 3 square meals a day all seemed to have found their way out of McKeldin Square, and the only people we could see about all looked like they’d recently fallen off a boxcar.

Littered signs outnumber people down there now. There’s composting going on. People have staked out their own little areas and are going about their daily ablutions in a way that makes us think that they are not the 99% but are in fact the other one percent. The one percent that is perfectly comfortable not showering for a week on end; that eats food directly from cans, that actually sees itself as America’s happy, noble poor and likes it that way.

The real 99% don’t find anything particularly noble about living in poverty, and are not happy being poor. And things are going to have to get a lot worse for them before they start showing up to occupy.

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Baltimore Beer Week Begins Today

Today is a holiday in the City of Baltimore. It’s not the usual thing for a holiday to be on a Thursday, but… wait; is today Thursday? Who cares! It’s a holiday. A high holy day. A high holy week. And by week, we mean like 2 weeks. Eleven days to be exact.

Today marks the opening festivities for the third annual Baltimore Beer Week with the Star Spangled Banger Parade kicking off at high noon. They’re going to muster up at Fort McHenry with the eponymous banger, a giant ceremonial cask-cracking mallet. The parade itself is somewhat, er, ambitious; rivaling this Spring’s Schaefer Tour in terms of scope.

The Star Spangled Banger... a mighty symbol of Baltimore's thirst for liberty. The liberty to drink beer, that is.

Billed as a walking pub crawl, the parade begins in Locust Point, but includes stops as far-flung as Alonso’s, Grand Cru, and Canton. We’re kind of dubious that people are walking that far for a pub crawl. Carrying a giant mallet all those miles would be part barhopping, part Olympic torch relay, and part Stanley Cup showoff fiasco. We wouldn’t be surprised if the Charm City Pedal Mill were somehow involved.

For those drinkers not of the pedestrian persuasion, the parade ends at Power Plant Live at 6 pm, where the official opening ceremony will take place and the first firkin of heavy seas will be cracked open. After that, Baltimore Beer Week is pretty much a free-for-all with more than 300 separate events from which to choose.

We made the trip to Oktoberfest last year, and it ended up exactly like we said it would. We might even make it back this year, who knows? The truth is that we’re thoroughly incapable of writing one of those elementary school style essays on the theme of “What Baltimore Beer Week Means to Me,” but one thing is certain, with that many events happening, we’re definitely going to sample a few new brews even though we’re decidedly not a beer snob.

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Why Won’t Baltimore Food Trucks Operate at Night?

Well Baltimore, the heat has finally broken. The cold has snapped. The mercury is beginning to drop. Very soon the trees will be bare of leaves, the woodland creatures will burrow in, and birds will fly south for the winter. There’s also another species whose ranks are about to be thinned out a bit… namely Baltimore food trucks.

Food trucks have been multiplying faster than mosquitoes all Summer long. After the great city hall food truck crisis of May 2011, trucks were given their own zones, as well as carte blanche to operate anywhere in the city. A new truck seemed to hit the streets almost once a week.

Believe it or not, people get hungry at night too.

That was Summer though, and this is Fall. While there is certainly no shortage on the supply side, demand for street food is sure to wane as the weather grows colder. Curbside Cafe has already served its last burrito for one reason or another, and we’d be willing to bet that at least a few of its competitors will end up on the scrap heap.

The food trucks that survive the long, cold winter won’t necessarily be the ones with the best food or the most advantageous lunchtime parking spot, but the ones that are willing to work the hardest and put in the longest hours. Up until now, gourmet chuckwagons have catered almost exclusively to the downtown lunch crowd. A few of them will gear up for a Saturday event now and then, but by and large their operators have treated their enterprises mostly like a nine to five job.

Not only does this limited-to-lunchtime business plan completely ignore an entire segment of the local market, it runs counter to the whole purpose of selling food from a truck in the first place. Historically, food trucks have catered to blue collar workers at places like construction sites and steel mills, or any other remote location where people may be hungry. Baltimore’s fleet of trucks has for some reason chosen to operate only in areas that are already glutted with restaurants, and to compete with them directly from 11 to 3.

But what about the other 11-3? The one after dinner and before breakfast? The one where all the restaurants are closed but people are still out and hungry? The trucks that fill this niche are the ones that will survive the winter.

Baltimore has a serious deficit of late night dining options. There’s the Sip and Bite and Captain James’ Carryout, which despite all their charm are frankly pretty crummy restaurants. The Papermoon Diner is still crucial, although they’re no longer 24 hours, and often feature a post-last-call rush and lengthy wait times on weekends. There are a few traditional diners as well, though these are mostly on the outskirts of the city and can be inconvenient for those of us living downtown. We’re sure we don’t speak only for ourselves when we say that after a long night of Chopping it up at the bars, we’d much rather sample some delectable mobile fare than coming home and eating drunkfood like a fatty.

We’re out of luck though, because even though every weekend there are plenty of starving students at Power Plant, Hungry hungry hipsters in Station North, and famished folks in Fell’s the city’s food trucks refuse to claim their rightful place in its nightlife scene. Food truck owners: You are literally leaving piles of money sitting on the corner. All you’ve got to do to double your profits is just show up.

It’s not just insatiate imbibers who would be well served by food trucks hitting the streets at night. There are also plenty of cops, EMT’s, doctors and nurses and other public servants in the downtown sphere who don’t keep regular hours, but enjoy a mid-shift lunch nonetheless. They deserve better than what’s left on the shelf at 7-11 or a sack lunch brought from home. Serving up hot food on cold nights would not only boost a truck’s profits, it would bring the concept full circle, serving hard-working people who can’t get a restaurant meal.

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In Praise of the Cocktail Pitcher

As the weather here in Charm City becomes ever more pleasant and temperate, we’ve found that we’re spending a lot more time in the great out-of-doors. Of course, we’re not really the trail hiking and mountain biking type- most of our outdoor activities have more to do with following our bliss than with following a trail, and for us that often means raising a glass. Or three.

As anyone who’s sat outside relaxing for more than 10 minutes can tell you, running inside for anything is an incredible hassle. Man invented coolers because no one wants to take down their feet and leave a cool breeze for a steamy kitchen just to get another beer.

The cocktail pitcher: Summer drinking done right.

Whether you’re drinking beers in the backyard or cocktails on the veranda, the same principle applies. Yet for some reason when most people build their bars they’ll gather their bottles and even buy some quality barware, but neglect a crucial component to Summer drinking: the cocktail pitcher.

When most people think of cocktails in pitchers, they think of very specific occasions and drinks; the pitcher of margaritas for Cinco de Mayo, a pitcher of mojitos for a holiday cookout, or breaking out the blender for frozen daquiris. There’s some irony in that though. Most people hope to impress guests with their secret-recipe sangria, only to end up serving it in a crummy old tupperware pitcher which has seen more than its share of dishwasher heat and kool-aid stains. This will never do.

At the Chophouse, not only do we have a dedicated cocktail pitcher, but it occupies a prominent place on our bar. We keep it out in plain view because most dedicated cocktail pitchers are as elegant as they are useful. Whether vintage or modern, standing alone or matched as a set, cocktail pitchers are typically given as much care in their creation as in their design, usually being mouth-blown from crystal or very high quality glass. With most ranging from $20-$50, you can shop with confidence knowing that you’re likely to end up with more than your money’s worth.

Whether it’s sake punch or one of our favorite homespun highballs, we’re not sure how we ever got by without a pitcher. Pick one up for yourself this summer, and we think you’ll agree.

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House Rules: Buybacks

We’re loathe to admit that New York City has ever done anything better than Baltimore. Sure, they do everything bigger, but that’s not necessarily better.

It almost killed us when we were forced to admit that they’ve outdone us for happy hour, and it hurts us again when we have to discuss the matter of buybacks.

The next round's on the house, Hon.

For those unfamiliar, a ‘buyback’ is a round of drinks received on the house after buying a few rounds in a row. The idea of the buyback is an old tradition which is present in bars nationwide, and even internationally, but nowhere is it more ingrained than in New York. In Manhattan and its surrounding boroughs, a round on the house is almost an entitlement in any bar worth drinking in. Instead of giving bartenders ‘shift drinks’ to comp at discretion, it’s not unusual for management in NYC to have stated policies on buybacks for employees and patrons to follow.

Granted, it is a decidedly old school practice, and like much of old New York is barely fighting to stay alive. This is why we were so pleased to discover by accident a website devoted entirely to finding and documenting the best bars for buybacks on the internet.

BuybackNYC.com never appears to have made it out of beta, and their scant blog hasn’t been updated in some 14 months. Still, their FAQ page is an excellent primer on the culture of buybacks, and the idea of mapping buyback bars is absolutely genius. We’re sorry it didn’t work out better.

Here in Charm City, people are currently still in a months-long frenzy over ‘deals’ sites like Groupon, LivingSocial, Chewpons, CityCents, Mobile Deals, Google and Facebook deals, etc. Personally, we’ve never understood the appeal of most of these, as a lot of them are designed to get you to buy something you wouldn’t otherwise, and to spend more than the value of the ‘deal.’ How many times has a $10 for $20 worth of food coupon turned into a $50 restaurant check? Many, we’d wager. Then there’s a whole host of restrictions and limitations to deal with, not to mention the problem of places closing down before you’ve got a chance to claim your deal.

We’ve always been more partial to specials that are offered directly by bars and restaurants themselves, and we’ve long admired the potential for sites and mobile apps like 600 Block, which like BuybackNYC is still in beta, and seldom if ever updated. At its inception, 600 Block was an invaluable tool for keeping track of the cheapest drinks in town. Unfortunately, a site like that is just too much for one or two people to keep updating daily when the only revenue is Google ads and a few local restaurant sponsorships.

The only solution we can see to the failure of such great ideas is is the publication of a fixed list, with regular specials that recur year in and year out, or to make happy hour calendars a wiki, which can easily be updated and edited by anyone, whether they happen to work in a bar or not. We’d love to see a wiki buybacks site here in Baltimore, to help prevent certain neophytes from walking into bars and behaving like a hipster dufus.

In the meantime though, we’ll continue to find our buybacks and happy hours the old fashioned way; on a barstool.

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The Chop’s Seawater Martini Cocktail Recipe

Some popular new ideas are nothing more than teeny tiny tweaks of very old, very good ideas. Roller skates were tweaked to make rollerblades. Facebook was just a better Myspace. They put sleeves on a blanket and called it a Snuggie.
It’s in that spirit that we offer you a small tweak to the grandaddy of all classic cocktails, the martini.

Notice we said “tweak.” Not improvement. Not “major breakthrough.” The poor martini has been ‘reinvented’ so many times that many casual drinkers don’t even know quite what a martini actually is. All we offer here is a slight variation: something you may want to try just once at least, or just once in a great while at most.

What's it taste like? It tastes like this.

What we have here is mostly just a “dirty” martini, with a slight variation and possibly a twist on the garnish. It’s not something you’d order just anywhere, or drink just anytime, but if at some point this Summer you find yourself overlooking the harbor from the Rusty Scupper’s dining room, or out on the deck at Nick’s Fish House, this version of the martini might be just the thing before dinner.

The Seawater Martini

  • 6 parts Vodka
  • 1 part Dry Vermouth
  • Large splash of olive juice
  • Small splash of clam juice
  • Anchovy-stuffed olive to garnish
  • Chill and mix as you would a traditional martini, serve straight up.

Of course, drinking actual seawater is never recommended, but the saltiness of olive brine mixed with the piscine flavor of clam is a very close approximation for a cocktail glass. We mentioned that you might want to call for one of these at a seafood restaurant, and aside from mixing one at home, that might be the only place you can order one. Clam juice isn’t exactly a common ingredient, even behind the best-stocked bars.

You can certainly try this with good, crisp gin as well, although clams and olives and gin might be a little overwhelming. This is already a very savory drink with vodka, and like some other produce of the sea, it simply won’t be for everyone.

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Bi-Weekly Political Roundup: Weiner’s COCK Edition

Today is the second Wednesday of the month, and as usual Progressives of all stripes will be gathering on the patio of Joe Squared to swap stories, talk politics, and drink beers at the regular meeting of the Baltimore Chapter of Drinking Liberally.

Meetings start at 7 pm and are open to anyone who wishes to attend. Just look for the table with the red, white, and blue bottle and introduce yourself.

Baltimore's Drinking Liberally meets at Joe Squared tonight. 7 pm.

Of course, the topic of Weiner’s wiener is bound to come up, but we’ve been tired of that pun for at least two weeks. We’re going to insist on calling it Weiner’s COCK if we have to talk about it at all. Come on… that’s how people talk anyway. When’s the last time anybody sent a wiener pic? No one ever has. People send cock pics. Weiner sent a picture of his cock.

As far as where that leaves us now… well, we still think Andrew Breitbart is a sleazy, sensationalist, predatory asshole. He just happened to be right, the same way a broken clock will be twice a day. It’s safe to say that we won’t be seeing much more of Weiner on programs like Maddow and sites like Twitter. He’ll be going about his job much more quietly from now on. As to whether or not he gets to keep his seat, that’s up to the voters to decide, but we’re thinking he does. As we pointed out two weeks ago, sex scandals happen all the time now, and you’ve got to be pretty sleazy these days to seriously raise eyebrows. We don’t think that being a horny 16 year old who just got his first Myspace page will ultimately prove that destructive to the distinguished gentleman from New York.

In non-Weiner’s cock related news, this is also a good day to talk about who will be the next mayor of Baltimore. SRB, Otis Rolley, Jody Landers, and Catherine Pugh are all officially in, and with 98 days left until the election, it’s not out of the question that Kweisi Mfume, Carl Stokes, Andre Bundley or some other dark horse candidate could throw his or her hat in the ring. Like 99% of the city, we haven’t even pretended to pay much attention at this point, but any one of those names is a huge step up from one of the most hated people in Baltimore, Sheila Dixon.

Being mayor of Baltimore is a really hard fucking job and honestly, we’re surprised that even that many people would want to do it. With more than one candidate that we’d actually consider voting for already in the race, we feel like we’ve already won.

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