Of Bars, Booze, and Bartending - Proving "Coughlin's Law" Invalid Since Feb '05

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Healthy Choice, I'm Calling You Out

It's not often that I eat fast, frozen or carryout food. I work at a truly great restaurant, which has its benefits, and when I grow tired of the free delectables, I really enjoy cooking. If I get out of work late and don't feel like enduring the grocery, I try to hit a local deli for something a little more healthy. For insurance when I'm out of options, I like to keep a few frozen food entrees in the freezer, to enjoy after those exhausting nights of all-out bartending, when the last thing I crave is something greasy and ill-prepared.

I'm a Lean Cuisine gal, and they've never let me down, so I've been pretty loyal. But, this week, I was a little low on funds, and Kroger (regional grocery supermarket titan, likely evil) was offering one helluva deal on Healthy Choice entrees for their "valued customer card owners" or whatever they're calling the solicitation of personal information for purposes of mass-marketing and trend studies in exchange for irresistible discounts these days. I like carbs late at night (don't start with me), so although I'd never tried them, I thought I'd give a few Healthy Choice Macaroni & Cheeses a whirl, because they were so damned cheap. They've been biding their time in the freezer all week, just waiting for their chance to laugh at me.

After a hellish Saturday night, I found myself incredibly hungry, out of energy and clocking out too late for "good" carryout. I remembered the Healthy Choice packages in the freezer; Oh, yes, yummy, a tray of frozen, low-fat mac-n-cheese, a few hours catching up with Tivo, and off to bed! As soon as I got home, I popped one in the micro. I like my frozen food well-done, so I followed the instructions, cut the vent, stirred, rotated, whatever, and added on an extra minute.

This is what it looked like when fully cooked. Sure, I know I'm nitpicking, but there's a barely-there, scarce "difference" between the package photo and the actual, cooked meal... hmm, maybe if I just added a sprig of fresh parsley...

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I was so astonished at the lack of pasta, I had to count them. 18 macaroni. Covered in a whole lotta glompy cheesy-sauce. Now, I'm sure they put some love into it, since it's clear that they are lovin' them some cheesy-sauce at the Healthy Choice plant. Macaroni, not so much.

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After carefully avoiding the weird, yellow, lumpy sauce, I picked out the 18 utterly limp, tasteless macaroni (told you I was hungry), leaving the tray looking, well, tragic and soupy, as anyone could see. I mean, look.

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I promise, I've never felt compelled to photograph a TV Dinner before, but I've never been so disappointed in a frozen entree in my life. And, this, on an evening where my ass was kicked serving booze-fueled blowhards, my cupboard was bare and I was really, really needing some comfort food.

With that, I go to bed hungry... damn you to hell, Healthy Choice! What's so freaking healthy about globs of weird-ass pee-yellow flavorless goop?

Thieves, I tell you.

I can't get no satisfaction
I can't get no satisfaction
'Cause I try, and I try, and I try, and I try
I can't get no
I can't get no
When I'm watchin' my TV, and that man comes on to tell me

How white my shirts can be
But he can't be a man 'cause he doesn't smoke

The same cigarettes as me
I can't get no, oh no no no
Hey hey hey
That's what I say

Rolling Stones, "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction"

Friday, January 20, 2006

The Ten-Minute Gimlet

Bear with me...

The basic concept is this... A Ten-Minute Martini. As far as I can tell, it originated at The Milky Way Bar in Boise, Idaho. A hearty toast to Pat at The Milky Way!! You're the Roy Hobbs of bartending, Pat, for inventing this method of martini-mixing.

You start with a level scoop of ice in a pint glass, add a few droplets of vermouth, add gin or vodka, give the usual swirl with the strainer engaged, and then you sink the glass in the ice bin. Wait ten minutes, swirl, and strain into a chilled martini glass. Yum...

There are so many problems with ill-conceived and prepared martinis these days. They're so trendy, but it's rare to find a well-mixed one. My advice is to start with a clear pint glass instead of a tin. Throw away your cocktail shakers, America! The pint glass allows the bartender to see what she's doing, and regardless of James Bond myths, martinis are best stirred, not shaken (You don't want to bruise the gin and yet, you want to mix the vermouth properly, but that's another post). It's all in the wrist. Just add ever so few drops of dry vermouth, add liquor, and swirl until the drink is good and cold. I like to swirl while I'm doing other stuff, stocking beer with one hand, swirling with the other, while occassionaly feeling the sides and bottom of the pint glass to ensure that the drink is cold. You simply can't over-swirl. Make that martini colder than Martha Stewart!! Put your wrist into it! (edit:) There's a good discussion about "bruising the gin" in the comments section. I'm chuckling now, because as I type it, it sounds rather like a masturbation metaphor, J Peterman Style.

The beauty of the Ten-Minute Martini is that it's guaranteed cold, but something about the slow melt contributes to the marriage of the ingredients, a slow dance between the molecules, which is what makes the drink worth waiting for. It brings out the sexy. When you finally pull the drink out of the bin, your customer salivates, because he's been waiting ten minutes, and the sides of the pint glass are thick and ice-coated while you perform the final swirl before pouring. Try the ten-minute method once, and you're hooked for life; you'll never accept an insta-Martini again. Try explaining that to your bartender.

If you're trying this at home, I'd suggest sticking the pint glass in your freezer for ten minutes... same effect without the ice-coated pint glass.

Thing is, I adore gin, but loathe vermouth. So, lately, I'm enjoying my favorite, personal variation...

The Ten-Minute Gimlet, Up

Begin with a level bar scoop of ice, in a pint glass
Splash of Rose's lime
Full lime wedge, squeezed over the ice and dropped
Add 2 oz. Bombay Sapphire Gin (Or Grey Goose Vodka, or your pleasure)
Swirl, sink into ice bin, wait ten minutes, swirl liberally, and strain into a chilled martini glass
Rub a fresh lime wedge around edge of the glass, squeeze, drop, and serve

It's cold, smooth, and crazy-delicious. The best martini/gimlet/gibson you'll ever drink.

This much, I promise you, my gentle, boozy friends.

Every second worth the wait.


I sang your songs, I danced your dance
I gave your friends all a chance
Putting up with them wasn't worth never having you
Aww, maybe you've been through this before
But it's my first time, so please ignore the next few lines
'Cause they're directed at you

I can't always be waiting, waiting on you
I can't always be playing, playing your fool

Jack Johnson - "Sitting, Waiting, Wishing"

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Traveling Salesmen

What's really great about bartending is that it's never the same day, same story. I've always had to struggle with the boredom and skull-numbing drudgery of traditional careers I've tried, so I'm better suited for a job which requires weird hours, always being on your feet, tending to people and adapting to changing conditions by the hour. It's like being a nurse, when you really think about it, once you take out the crucial-to-society aspect. A fun nurse, with more attractive workplace conditions.

For example, there are regulars, your bread-and-butter, and then there are traveling salesmen. The former keeps your cable bill paid and provides constant laughs and occasional moments of genuine affection, while the latter keeps it interesting, mixes it up. Sometimes they walk in painfully shy, head down on their mobile phones, quick bite, glass of wine and out the door. Other times, they walk in like Good Time Charlie, mixing it up with the regulars, buying rounds and appetizers. Then, there are those who are on the road, a bit lonely, and entirely talkative, but not in a creepy way.

Tonight, for example, I received an unexpected and pleasant lesson on the art of the Detroit Coney Island, from the heir to one of Detroit's Coney Island palaces. He's no longer making coneys (conies?); he's a sales manager on the road for an electronics firm. He explained to me that his Greek parents came to this country and opened a diner, hoping that their children would receive a formal education and not have to ever run the restaurant. Turns out they succeeded, and here sat my customer, pouring out his guilt about abandoning the family business, their beloved chili parlor, even though, apparently, that's what his parents wished for him in the first place. His honesty was fascinating.

You just never know on any given day what you're going to get, who you're going to meet, and what stories you're going to hear. That's what's really great about bartending.

A toast to dreams, especially the ones so unexpectedly fulfilled.

Darkness creeps in like a thief, and offers no relief
Why are you shaking like a leaf?
Come on, come talk to me
Please talk to me, won't you please talk to me
We can unlock this misery
Come on, come talk to me

- Peter Gabriel, "Come Talk To Me"

Monday, January 16, 2006

For the Reverend Martin Luther King...

... Sing.

In the name of love
What more in the name of love?
In the name of love
What more in the name of love?

A Happy and Peaceful

Martin Luther King Jr. Day to All.

One man caught on a barbed wire fence
One man, he resist
One man washed on an empty beach
One man betrayed with a kiss...

- U2, "Pride (In the Name of Love)"

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Is Nick Lachay homesick?

NickWatch continues... he's moving back? Should we be frightened? Look out, off-season Ben-Gals and currently enrolled local co-eds!

Nick Lachay Buys House in Colerain - Enquirer

Now, according to the article, the house was purchased for his father. It cost over 300 large though, and I can't imagine Nick's ESPN gig paying well enough for such a gift offering. I've got "The Odd Couple" theme stuck in my head.

So, Jess gets a $3 million dollar pad in Beverly Hills, Nick gets the finest house in all of Colerain.

Hey, Nick? Skyline brought back the Habanero Cheddar, if you're looking for something new since you left town.

Got tired of always packing and unpacking
Town to town, up and down the dial
Maybe you and me were never meant to be
Just maybe think of me once in awhile

- "WKRC In Cincinnati" Theme

Friday, January 13, 2006

How do you know when you're too old for the business?

Is there a general guideline? Is there a point where your GM has to ask you to hang up your apron? Forever?

Our most experienced and excellent server has begun complaining about his knees, and the stairs, and being seated with children. He's the best there ever was. If I found myself in any restaurant in the world, and saw his face, I'd request him as my server.

I can't imagine the restaurant without him. But for the first time in five years, I've begun worrying about him...

When I was twenty-one, it was a very good year
It was a very good year for city girls who lived up the stairs
With perfume hair, that came undone
When I was twenty-one

Then I was thirty-five, it was a very good year
It was a very good year for blue-blooded girls of independent means
We'd ride in limousines, their chauffeurs would drive

When I was thirty-five

- Ervin M. Drake, Covered by many, most notably Frank Sinatra, "It Was A Very Good Year" (Don't you find this song tragically sexy, in a way? It kind of loses the point if you really think about it.)

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Day of Truth

A well-known Cincinnati sports broadcaster came into the restuarant tonight. In between Warsteiners, I asked him how confident he felt about the Bengals-Steelers match-up. He shrugged. I said, "So give me some words of wisdom, something to make my heart stop jumping out of my chest. I'm nervous as hell."

He's so old-school cool, and didn't skip a beat. "Jen, just wear orange, and have fun," was his advice.

I'll try. It wasn't what I wanted to hear, because I'm tortured, really. I'm sick and nauseous about the game. But I'll try to enjoy it. Besides, I'm hungry for some burgers.

A toast to the football fans of America. Enjoy the games!

Updated Monday, January 9

Well, it's Monday morning. The Bengals just weren't ready for that, were they? Of course, we were dealt a bum deal when Kimo von Oelhoffen blew out Carson Palmer's knee and took him out of the game on, like, the second play. Yep, that sucked, and I can't express how heartbreaking it felt to watch Palmer squirming in the middle of the field. It was just like you knew, you knew the second they showed him, that the playoff dream had ended, and quickly. The last time I felt like that was when former UC Bearcats center Kenyon Martin broke his damned fibula on the eve of a number-one seed in the NCAA Tournament. Pure nausea, Cincinnati-style.

Kitna's always made me nervous, even though he peformed admirably in the first half. But everyone in that stadium and in the bars knew, even though we were leading at halftime, that fate had already decided the outcome. What should have been an amazing game and a great party regardless of the winner just turned into a kind of sickly buzzkill. We had a dream season, but it's just painful watching your star quarterback go out like that.

I guess I could be bitter and say that the Steeler's victory is tarnished, but I'm not going to be a sore loser; instead, I'm forced into the uncomfortable position of rooting for the Colts next week.

Steve? Congratulations! Five hamburgers coming your way. Email me?

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Crazy Delicious

I'm a bit behind the times, but I'm compelled to link to the now-infamous "Narnia" rap performed by Andy Samberg and Chris Parnell, nigh a few weeks ago. Girl acted like she'd never seen a ten before! If you haven't seen it yet, I urge you to enter the realm of so fifteen minutes ago. Still, I'll always have love for a classic SNL skit. It's the best thing since "More Cowbell."

Our most experienced server, Bob, found himself triple-sat and flustered tonight. At one point, he mixed up two checks. One couple had a $54 bottle of wine, an appetizer, two entrees, dessert, and after dinner drinks. The other had two fresh catches and iced tea. The wine couple received the wrong check, promptly paid and scooted out the door. C'mon, now. I really don't get it, what with karma and all. What would you do? I'd tell the server that he gave us the wrong check, that's what I'd do. Apparently, others wouldn't. Bob worked for free tonight, after already putting in a full shift at his day job. He paid for your wine, and your tip... feel good? Slapping yourself on the back? Shame on you.

Honest Peoples = Crazy Delicious!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Big Football in Little Ohio

Happy New Year! After spending a few days poring over those year-end lists I'm so crazy about, I've finally found my favorite... The Onion 10 Top Stories of 2005, of course. Be sure to click through them all.

Rolling Stone also had a nice round-up... The Mavericks of 2005. I always have trouble getting their site to display correctly, but the print edition was nice. For some reason, I keep getting my Rolling Stone in the mail, even though I stopped renewing about this time last year. Funny, that. Don't tell Jann.

But enough about the worst year ever. What an exciting, breathless week for Ohio sports fans!

It kicked off tonight with a Fiesta Bowl victory by The Ohio State Buckeyes over the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. I hate rooting against the Irish, but they suck in Bowl games, and when they're facing the beloved Buckeyes, well, a girl just has to be loyal. Here's a toast to Jim Tressel, the coach with the 49-13 record, three Bowls, a National Championship, and, most importantly, a 4-1 record against U of Michigan! Woot!!

If only they'd beaten Texas.

Now, downstate, we Bengals fans are biting our nails over Sunday's playoff against the Steelers. Hey, Steve? I'd entertain a friendly bet. Five hamburgers says you'll be crying in your terrible towel around, say, 8:00 on Sunday evening. I'll admit that I'm nervous, but I've grown comfortable with the Bengals breaking my heart or pissing me off, so I'm prepared. Still, I think we're going to pull it off. Ya gotta believe. So, five hamburgers. Deal? Any other takers?

There couldn't be anything better for bar business and bartenders than the success of local teams. It's the stuff of dreams for us (we're not terribly ambitious people), so if you happen to have no local interest remaining in the games (or maybe you're just rooting for my broke ass to pay off my holiday bills), cheer the Bengals on past Sunday!

Just consider it a tip?

And for the folks who came for the booze, here's a recipe, one of the Long Island Iced Tea variations I'm so fond of, to toast another great season of Buckeye Football.

The Scarlet and Gray

Build on ice, in a pint glass:

1/2 oz Vodka
1/2 oz Rum
1/2 oz Sloe Gin
1/2 oz Southern Comfort
1/2 oz Triple Sec

Re-ice after liquor melt

Splash of sour/bar lemon
Splash of cranberry juice

Generous shake with bar tin

Top with 7-up