Tag Archives: Summer

Don’t Break Your Neck Looking

Just a quick post today, since it’s Memorial Day and everyone is outside cooking on grills and hanging around the beach and not reading blogs anyway.

We’ve already seen a little of it, but with today being the traditional start of Summer, the women of Baltimore are all simultaneously about to head to Cloud 9 and South Moon Under to stock up on short-shorts, spaghetti straps, sundresses, and all of those other Summer staples we like… a lot.

A visual approximation of the Chop in early Summer.

It’s lucky for us that we’re still in pretty decent shape, because otherwise we’d be spending Memorial Day at Patient First getting treated for neck sprains after all the times our head’s spun round this past week. And why not? We’re single, huh? It’s been a long winter, and it’s only a few more weeks before we go back to the Middle East, which is not exactly South Beach, you know?

So we’re going to enjoy stealing glances at Summer outfits while we can. Ladies, keep the skirts short, the shoulders bare and the tan lines even. Men of Baltimore, take a tip from us; get in a few long looks- but try not to break your neck.

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The Chop’s Democrat Cocktail Recipe

We’ve never really been the type who alternates consistently between a “winter drink” and a “summer drink,” but 2011 might just be the year that that changes for good. As a pretty loyal bourbon/Scotch drinker, we’re happy to pour a whiskey sour or a mint julep during the Summer months, and warm weather is the perfect time to enjoy a Lemon Stick or a Veracruz but until we came up with the Democrat, we hadn’t found anything we could potentially stick with all Summer long.

When mixed properly, the Democrat will look similar to this.

We settled on the name not because we happen to be a Democrat, or because we regularly enjoy drinking with other Democrats, but because the Dems mascot is a donkey, and we fashioned this after a classic drink: The Moscow Mule. Virtually all existing recipes for the Moscow Mule call for ginger beer. While ginger beer is great, we’ve found a way to update and improve this classic, making it lighter without sacrificing that spicy bite of ginger, and making it at once more summery and more alcoholic.

The Democrat

  • 3 parts vodka
  • 2 parts ginger liqueur
  • 1 part lime juice
  • splash of simple syrup
  • 2 dashes orange bitters
  • club soda

Pour ingredients in that order into a rocks filled glass. Stir and top off with club soda.

Another upgrade we’ve made is nixing the traditional copper mug which is a hallmark of the Moscow Mule. A regular Collins glass will work just fine here. Similar to a generously poured Collins, this cocktail is strong enough to appreciate, but not so strong that you can’t drink several of them on a hot Summer day. We’ve found that they’re the perfect mix of the citrus we’d expect in a warm weather drink, and the rich taste of ginger which we enjoy year round.

Go ahead and mix one up, we think you’ll like it just as much as we do.

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House Rules: Doggie Dining

Let us say this emphatically, because we want you to know it and believe it right off the bat: The Chop is not, repeat not a mean old dog-hater. We like dogs. We like them a lot, actually; more than we like most people. Dogs are almost always nice and friendly. People are often inconsiderate assholes.

As the Sun’s Julie Bykowicz reported last month a new state law will officially legalize bringing dogs into the outdoor seating sections of restaurants. The way we see it, when the law takes effect July 1, it will merely serve to double down on an already prevalent practice among dog-owning Baltimoreans.

A visual approximation of the Chop enjoying some peaceful, quiet, uninterrupted, dog-free al fresco dining.

The main reason we started a “House Rules” section on this blog is that a lot of people simply don’t know how to act when they’re out in public. This is never more true than where dogs are concerned. Where dogs cause problems, it’s never the dog’s fault. People are the real problem.

Let’s assume for a moment that your dog is perfect. It’s not true, but let’s imagine that your dog was the valedictorian of obedience school and that he’ll lie motionless under your chair for the duration of a meal. You’re still bringing it into an environment with several other dogs, and one of them is going to bark at your dog. We’re at the next table over, and we were just about to make a point before a whole patio of barking erupted because someone else not you, gentle reader doesn’t know how to keep their dog quiet.

It’s not even always the dogs that annoy. Even if you’re dog is lying still and sweetly under your table, somebody is going to come outside to smoke. That person is then going to fawn all over your dog whether you want them to or not. Although you’re probably used to that by now, we’re not, and we’re at the next table over. This asshole is now bumping into our chair and getting smoke all over us while we’re eating.

It’s not your fault either, that you let the waiter pet your dog when he brought the little bowl of water for it. He asked, after all, and it would have been rude to say no. But we just watched the waiter pet your dog and we’re not too happy about it. Especially since our salad hasn’t arrived yet.

These are just a few ways that even your perfect little pooch can cause a lot of chaos in a restaurant setting. If you’re eating outside this Spring and Summer, please keep in mind that you are in a restaurant and not at a kennel club or dog show. You don’t have to pet every dog you see just because it’s cute. We love eating outdoors, but come July we’ll be enjoying the air-conditioning in the dog-free, smoke-free indoor part of the restaurant. We’re not the only local blog who feels this way, either.

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The Ten Best Unpopular Highballs

It’s officially Spring in Baltimore. The good news is that Flowermart and Preakness are right around the corner. The bad news is that Spring also means household chores and Spring cleaning. There is a silver lining though, and it is that Spring cleaning also means cleaning out your home bar.

If you’re like us, you’ve been hoarding bottles the way squirrels hoard nuts during your winter hibernation. There’s no time like the present for streamlining your bar, and one of the easiest ways to do that is by mixing highballs.

Drinks in the back yard are often different from drinks at the bar.

First a clarification: Wikipedia tells us that the term highball originally referred to scotch and soda, but has grown to encompass almost any combination of liquor and soft drinks, mostly but not exclusively of the carbonated variety. A highball is usually what people refer to with the term “mixed drinks” as opposed to “cocktails” which are typically comprised mostly of liquor.

In bars and taverns, some particular highball combinations enjoy a longstanding popularity; Jack and Coke, Gin and tonic, Bourbon and ginger ale, Seven and Seven, etc. Those are all solid choices, but at home having too much, or not enough of one ingredient can lead to some unexpected choices. After all, the best part of home bartending is experimentation…

  • 10: Vodka and Flavored Seltzer. Take a trip up the soda/water aisle in the grocery store and you’ll find plenty of lightly flavored seltzers which aren’t stocked in bars and which are much cheaper than regular sodas. these are a perfect choice for Spring and Summer drinking.
  • 9: Jameson and Lemonade. This doesn’t sound so good on paper, but something about it just works. The combo of malt and citrus makes for a slightly organic taste, and of course, there’s a ton of sugar in there too. We once brought home a bottle Wasmund’s malt whisky, and the only way we could power through it was by adding lemonade.
  • 8: Vodka and Sweet Tea. Sometimes known as an Icepick, this is a drink that is best drunk at home, because no bar or restaurant we know of locally makes tea the right way: Sweet.
  • 7: Gin and Sprite. Most gin drinkers will reach for tonic every time, but we’ve got a sweet tooth. Sprite is the only thing we’ve found so far that makes us like gin enough to drink it throughout the evening.
  • 6: Vodka and Cran-Raspberry. This is actually our father’s drink of choice. Any bar can pour you a Cape Cod, but you’ve got to be at home to make it with cran-raspberry. And trust us, it’s much better that way.
  • 5: Dark Rum and Lemon Water. It’s hard to say what we mean by lemon water. It’s much more tart and lightly flavored than lemonade, and only slightly carbonated. Not quite water, not quite soda, you’ll know it when you see it. Whatever it is, the lightness and crispness of it is a perfect complement to the syrupy quality of a rum like Myers’s or our own favorite, the Kraken.
  • 4: Light Rum and Fruit Punch. Check your fridge, you might have a bottle of fruit punch hanging around back there. You know the kind we mean, mostly grape juice, some pear juice, a small fraction of other juices, and a palm tree on the label. make sure to use rum and not vodka to avoid unpleasant memories of “jungle juice.”
  • 3: Tequila and Snowballs. Most people who are from here don’t realize that snowballs are native regional fare for Baltimore. They also often don’t realize that they’re best enjoyed with liquor dumped all over them. There are a ton of winning flavor and liquor combinations, but you can’t go wrong with tequila and a key lime pie flavored snowball. Just be sure to skip the marshmallow topping.
  • 2: Bourbon and Apple Cider. Granted, this is more of a seasonal drink for the Fall, but it is good enough to drink year round. Plain old apple cider is such a great mixer, it’s surprising that more hoity-toity bartenders haven’t caught on to its use as a cocktail ingredient.
  • 1: Anything and Limeade. Limeade is pretty gross on its own, but it’s one of the most versatile mixers you can buy. Most of the types you find at the store are of pretty good quality too, since they’re not all artificial sweeteners and citric acid like most lemonades. Works with rums, tequila, gin, and just about every one of the 10,000 flavored vodkas out there. Best bet: Cherry vodka limeade.

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Chop Style: Grilling Aprons

Now that baseball season is officially underway, we’re about to see all the hallmarks of Summer in Baltimore unfold rapidly. We’re on the cusp of several months of crab feasts, Arabbers, festivals, open fire hydrants, stoop sitting, and all the other things that make Summer in the city such a wonderful time.

Last week wasn’t just the beginning of baseball season, it was also the de facto start of the grilling season. Whether you favor Esskay dogs or Ceriello steaks, charcoal or gas, it’s time to get cooking. If you’ve read this blog before you probably know that we’re very careful about choosing clothes and getting dressed, and we aim to keep the A1 and the Pickapeppa far away from our shirts this Summer. How? By being careful about choosing an apron.

Sure, you *can* grill without an apron. We don't recommend it though.

Aprons still have a bit of a feminine connotation attached to them, and while there are plenty of patterns and designs available out there, few of them are suited to men. In choosing one for yourself, you should be guided by the same principles that inform the rest of your wardrobe. Pick something that’s made of quality cloth in a classic color or pattern that works for all occasions. Most importantly, stay away from stupid novelty aprons. Whatever it looks like, your apron should not distract from the rest of your outfit. Here are three choices for your Summer cookouts which are damn near foolproof.

Dean and DeLuca apron. $24.

The thing about aprons is this: even the fanciest ones you can possibly buy are under $30. This one from Dean and DeLuca is plain white and perfect for outdoor use. Even if you’re just serving up hot dogs and ketchup, the prominent label will lend you a little gourmet credibility and your cookout guests will come away thinking ‘Oh he shop at Dean and DeLuca. He think he fancy, huh?’

Williams Sonoma Marseille apron. $24.

The Marseille apron from Williams Sonoma does in fact have a bunch of flowers all over it, but we’d dare anyone to call it girly. The pattern is so tight and the color so muted that it falls squarely into the ‘classic’ category, and at $24 it might be the least expensive item in any Williams Sonoma store.

Sur la Table Black Muted Stripe apron. $19.95

Of course, there are few things more masculine than butchering, and if you’re the kind of backyard chef that literally likes to go whole-hog, then this butcher-striped apron from Sur La Table should be right up your alley. It may not have the prominent branding of the D & D apron, but if any of your guests should ask about it you have the added enjoyment of getting to pronounce Sur la Table which can be a launching pad to a five minute comedy routine complete with Julia Child impression if you’ve had a few Summer cocktails.

One final word: Although we fully endorse aprons, and even aprons from fancy-schmancy stores like the ones listed here, we would caution anyone against going the extra mile and wearing a chef’s coat at home. Nothing screams ‘I’m a pretentious asshole and am only cooking for you to feed my own ego’ like wearing a chef’s coat outside a commercial kitchen. Plus you’ll look like a sweaty jerk wearing a full coat in the middle of Summer. If you’re hosting a cookout, you can always fold an apron down to the waist, grab a beer and mingle while the grill is going. In a chef’s coat, you’ll look more like the help than the host, and be at a remove from your guests until you take the damn thing off.

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Chop Style: Men’s Swimwear

The Chop’s not a great one for swimming. We might be tempted to sit poolside if there’s a bar cart involved, but dangling our ankles is about as wet as we’ll get. We’re also not too keen on staring at mostly naked men and comparing them side by side. That’s a job better suited to a beautiful woman, and so we’ve enlisted one to write today’s post. Local designer and fashionista Katy Hunchar has style to spare, and here she gives you her swimsuit picks for Summer 2011.

The Short Swim Trunk

The super short swim trunk is my favorite style, hands down. I just love legs! I also love Boris Becker. Though I gather from Google image search that current day B.B. dresses like a playboy, his court style in the late ‘80s was champion. I know he had international tennis star legs, but honestly, it was his crisp short shorts and trim polos that gave him the active man look I love. Here are three solid options, starting with the shortest:

Orlebar Brown's 'Pup': $130

I like Orlebar Brown’s Pup in olive and Paul Smith’s short slim style in navy. Wear them and move effortlessly through summer with free legs and awesomely tan thighs. If these are a little pricey, you can probably find a cheaper version at American Apparel. Pair them with white and gray heather t-shirts.

Patagonia Baggies: $45.

Patagonia’s Baggies are a super simple and versatile sport/swim short. They are perfect for a multitude of activity pairings. Run around the Harbor then stop at the Tiki Barge for a swim! Mow the lawn then go to Safeway. Whatever you want to do, these shorts will take you there. I also recommend these as a replacement for one pair of mesh basketball shorts. (As a side note, Patagonia carries a lot of good simple men’s styles.)

Original Penguin Board Short: $65.

Prints

Skip plaid this season. Stick to classic stripes and bright graphic prints. Nautical stripes are always in style and Penguin has some solid offerings for the seafaring fellow. I like this color-block in bright red and blue. Alternatively, Orlebar Brown’s Eley Kishimoto Dane is the raddest print I’ve seen so far. It looks best in red.

Orlebar Brown 'Dane': £150.

The Floral

This navy and orange floral, again by Paul Smith, is really great. A lot of florals are too busy and look like tropical rainbow explosions. This toned-down navy and orange print is nice and simple. It looks so melty and luxurious.

Paul smith's floral print: $175.

Denim Cut-offs

In middle school my entire gym class had to jump into a swimming pool wearing jeans. While treading water, we had to shimmy them off underwater, pull them to the surface, tie the end of each leg into a big fat knot, and finally, with our last gusts of life-breath, blow them up into makeshift denim life preservers. It is difficult to swim in denim, but absolutely possible.

Denim cut-offs can be worn successfully in a handful of locations: by the swimming hole, at the lake, and on tour while lounging around some random swimming pool. The best cut-offs are super faded and worn to threads. Most likely, you already have an old pair of jeans in your closet that are ready to cut. If you don’t have a suitable pair, reread Chop’s Guide to Thrift Store Shopping Part I and Part II and head over to Value Village. While you’re there, keep an eye out for Boris Becker shorts! Also look for OP tees with faded neon surf graphics to pair with your olive Pups. YES!

Cutoffs are high style at Prettyboy or Beaver Dam, not so much at the gym or hotel pool.

The Board Short

If you insist on wearing the board, look for the shortest pair you can bear and wear them low. Look through collections by skate and surf brands like Hurley, Volcom and RVCA or choose a simple solid red lifeguard style. Avoid contrasting diagonal plaids and prints that simulate laser beams. You know what I am talking about.

Y’all just roll through the water.

Truth is, if you really want to look awesome at the pool or beach this summer, learn how to move well in the water. Ride your bike down to the Patterson Park pool as soon as it opens and LAP IT UP.

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Katy Hunchar is an artist and designer living in Charles Village. Check out her work at lpconcept.com and follow her on Twitter at @chipsnkaty. She is also a lifelong competitive swimmer and has coached swimmers of every age, including NCAA Division I swimming while in grad school.

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Chop Style: Straw Hats

Please understand: we are very wary about endorsing hats as a point of style. Very few people can pull them off in the modern era without affectation, and where you see a fedora or trilby anywhere in the media, you can bet one of America’s biggest douchebags is under it.

However, as Hunter S. Thompson shows us here, sometimes a man in a hat is a bad mother fucker.

An ideal example of form following function.

Thompson was a very bald man who spent a great amount of time chasing assholes around the desert. He knew a thing or two about keeping the sun off his head. In fact, everything Thompson wore was extremely functional; sunglasses to shade the eyes and hide bloodshots. Boots for pounding pavement or kicking the way out of a jam, lots of pockets for cigarettes and drugs and guns and whatnot… you get the idea.

So with the weather turning warm now and the sun shining longer and longer by the day, we’re in the market for a new straw hat. We’re thinking we might head down to Hippodrome Hatters and try on a homburg or a snap-brim for the Summer. This endorsement is not unconditional though. There are a few rules to keep in mind with hats to make sure they look natural and effortless, and not like this.

    1. Strictly Summer. We’re talking about natural fiber hats here. You wouldn’t wear shorts or sandals after baseball season, and the same goes for straw.

    2. Be sure it fits the rest of your outfit. It’ll look fine worn over a linen or seersucker shirt, but downright clownish worn with jeans and tennis shoes. A summer hat should complement an already cohesive style.

    3. Be over 30. Or at least damn near 30. This is just not a young man’s look. Youth has plenty of advantages, but the ability to pull off things like elbow patches, loafers, beards and hats is not one of them.

    4. Stay in the sun. No man should ever be wearing a hat indoors, and likewise they’re equally out of place after the sun sets. Straw is subject to the same rules as sunglasses. Anyone wearing them inside or at night or both is a douchebag.

Perhaps no other accessory is so fraught with the possibility for disaster. Wear it wrong once, and tagged photos could be following you around the internet forever. Wear it right though, and it’ll fit so naturally it would be hard to picture you without it.

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