Quin's Progress


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Buckle Up For A Whirlwind Road Trip!

Time for a quick update, to bring y’all up to speed.  Since the last post, I’ve been across the country and back, getting ready to leave for Korea tomorrow.  I don’t want to bore you with too many details, so here’s the nutshell account.  Let’s see, where did I leave off….oh yes, the Grand Canyon.  Okay, so, we’re in Arizona….P1030112

P1030116I had been driving for hours along the old Route 66 between Flagstaff and Winslow, and I desperately had to pee, so when I saw this funny little unofficial looking sign saying there was a meteor crater at the next exit, I figured, what the heck, there’s probably a bathroom, I’ll check it out.  P1030101

That's one screamin' fast shuttle!

That’s one screamin’ fast shuttle!

Six miles down the road off the highway, there’s an asphalt parking lot, with tremendously stimulating signs leading up the hill to the entrance of the aforesaid meteor crater visitor center.  They only tell you after you’ve climbed the hill that it’s $16 to get in, which I thought was kind of mean; they should tell you that before you hike your butt all the way up there, because, you know, there might be some people out there who don’t want to spend $16 to look at a big dimple.  But, I didn’t want to have climbed that hill for nothing, and the potty situation was closing in on dire, so I paid my sixteen bucks and went in.

The floor of the crater is bigger than 20 football fields

The floor of the crater is bigger than 20 football fields

Holy cosmic pock marks, Batman, that is one big hole in the ground!  After the Grand Canyon, the threshold for big holes in the ground being impressive had been raised quite a bit, I must say.  But if you go through the little museum, and watch the short film they have, the significance of the place becomes clear–it’s one of the only confirmed meteor impact sites in the world.  Most other craters are the result of a volcanic caldera.  I never knew that.  P1030099Anyhoo, the really groovy thing about this spot is that, in the 1960s and 70s, NASA trained astronauts here, including the Apollo astronauts, because of its similarity to craters on the moon.  They even had a lunar landing capsule on site that the astronauts used for training purposes.  Very I Dream of Jeannie.  Ooh, and remember that 1984 movie “Starman” with Jeff Bridges?  The spacecraft impact parts of it were filmed here.  Cool, no?

P1030075

Not a Painting

There was a red brick wall around the visitor center plaza, with this open viewing window in it; with the vista beyond, it so reminded me of a Magritte painting.  Don’t you think?

"Standin' on a corner in Winslow, Arizona...."

“Standin’ on a corner in Winslow, Arizona….”

A few miles down the road, I had to stop in Winslow, Arizona and, well, you know…stand on a corner.  Because of the Eagles song.  I didn’t see any girls in flatbed Fords, and the only one to slow down and take a look at me was the guy driving the street sweeping truck.  That’s not very poetic, though.  There is, however, a loudspeaker on the appointed corner, that blares Eagles music on a loop, into the otherwise unoccupied atmosphere, and there’s an Eagles-themed shop on the adjacent corner, where one can buy all manner of “Take It Easy” t-shirts, etc., but I refrained.  I’m told I missed out on the classic gag, though, because I didn’t find a pay phone and crank call someone and sing a few bars of “Take It Easy” to them.  Sorry for failing y’all like that!  Moving on….

Middle of nowhere, New Mexico

Middle of nowhere, New Mexico

Driving through the southwest, you really do get a sense of how vast the United States is.  Miles and miles of open, literally amazing landscapes and endless horizons, with hours between towns.  It’s strange, too, how the landscape shifts subtly but so distinctly as you cross state borders.  Leaving Arizona and entering New Mexico, suddenly the Painted Desert splashes different colors across the land, and the surface of the earth buckles up in spots to replace the flat desert behind you.  It’s quite beautiful.

IMG_3607P1030141Zooming along toward Santa Fe, I had to pull over again to see the Continental Divide.  That’s got to be something, right?  Where the water flows in different directions from a specific cleft in the tectonic plates of the earth?  Well, turns out, all there is to see is a U.S. Geological Survey sign, and a truly weird curio shop, that was closed anyway.  Still, worth pulling over, just to note the occasion.P1030148

Santa Fe and I didn’t get off to a good start.  I was in an evil mood from the minute I got there; I seriously think I would have bitten someone in the leg if I’d had the chance.  Everything was annoying me, and I’m usually pretty easygoing.  Then, I overheard someone in a cafe say something about having trouble getting used to the altitude, and it hit me.  I butted into their conversation and asked what the altitude is, and when she answered it was 7,200 feet, I realized, I wasn’t just in a bad mood, I was oxygen deprived!  No wonder!  This happened to me in Mexico City, too.  I couldn’t walk a block without getting winded, and I felt so bitchy and mean for the first few days; it was ugly.  But, thankfully, the fix is easy enough.  Just slow it down, and drink steadily.  So, that’s what I did.

The Ladies' Room door at the Pink Adobe

The Ladies’ Room door at the Pink Adobe

Pink Dragon

Pink Dragon

Meet the Pink Dragon:  a prickly pear fruit margarita from the Dragon Room at the Pink Adobe in Santa Fe.  I plied myself with this elixir until I was restored to my usual state of near equanimity, and then Santa Fe’s charms were more obvious to me.  There’s really no disputing that the surrounding high desert is breathtaking.  Even if you aren’t a desert person, just stand still and stare and breathe for a while, and the palette of colors, and spectrum of textures will dizzy you.  Or maybe it’s just the altitude, I don’t know.

Old HouseI particularly loved how the oldest house and church in the United States has an adjacent beer garden.  Perfect for my altitude coping mechanism.P1030184

I happened to arrive in town on the eve of the annual Santa Fe Fiesta, which commences with a Burning Man type ritual in which they immolate the “Zozobra,” a 50-foot tall effigy of the boogeyman, intended to chase out the bad spirits for the coming year.  P1030228P1030281The remainder of the weekend hosts a festival, with booths of food and art and crafts and such all over downtown, and several stages of music and local dance troop performances.  It was just the thing to sand off my moody rough edges.

Navajo Taco

Navajo Taco

Especially, the Navajo Tacos, made with roast lamb and Indian fry bread.  Mmm-mmm!

I saw Melissa Etheridge wandering around town that weekend, and heard she was in town giving a concert at the Santa Fe Opera House, which is about 20 minutes outside town out in the desert mountains.  I’ve always liked her music, so, I snagged a ticket and went.

Santa Fe Opera House

Santa Fe Opera House

What a glorious place that opera house is!  The architecture of the theater is open on the sides, so you are basically sitting outside in the desert air, but covered, so it can storm and rain and thunder and lightening, and the show can still go on.  A fantastic venue for a Wagner opera, I’m sure.  But Melissa Etheridge was pretty good too.  I think the sound of her voice is like having whiskey poured down your naked back.

P1030284After a couple days’ break in Santa Fe, it was time to hit the road again, for two more days driving to Fort Worth to Dad’s house.  I must say, though, the highway through the eastern half of New Mexico is not exactly hard on the eyes.  Although, I did accidentally blast past the exit for Roswell, and didn’t realize it until I was almost to  Amarillo, because I was singing along with great gusto to Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers’ Greatest Hits…that’s some good road trip music, right there.  Anyway, I had been hoping to bookend the meteor crater report with some shots of the Alien Autopsy and UFO museum for you, but oh well.  Sorry ’bout that.

cadillacs

Cadillac Ranch
Amarillo, TX

As a consolation, just west of Amarillo, I happened upon the Cadillac Ranch:  a plowed field into which someone has upended a bunch of old Cadillacs, nose down into the ground, in a sort of single-file Stonehenge homage.  It was very random and definitely hilarious.  cadillacs2Graffiti is welcome, and there are squillions of discarded spray paint cans strewn about, for anyone to use to add their mark to the Cadillac canvas.  Who says Texans don’t have a sense of whimsy?

As for the rest of my time in Texas, I discovered that macaroni and cheese is classified as a vegetable at the Cracker Barrel (I can get on board with that), and that this song exists:

Next stop, New York City!  My friend James and I were lazing about Washington Square Park, and this girl was sashaying around the fountain, workin’ it hard enough to throw her back out, throwing smoldering glances over her shoulder at no one in particular.  girl1She was like a living Virginia Slims commercial, and I instantly loved her.  So, I stalked her for a while, taking pictures of her….since that’s obviously what she thought was already happening.  Hate to let all that catwalkin’ go to waste.

Fabulous thighs on that model, no?

Fabulous thighs on that model, no?

We happened upon a real photo shoot under the steps in front of Bethesda Fountain in Central Park, and I felt bad that Ms. Virginia Slims wasn’t there to jump in on the fun.

Bethesda Fountain

Bethesda Fountain

I finally made it to the Tenement Museum on Delancey and Orchard Streets on the Lower East Side, which I’ve been meaning to do for the last several times I was in New York.

It’s a well-preserved example of the type of tenement homes that housed thousands of immigrant families in New York in the early to mid- 1900’s in cramped, sometimes unsanitary quarters.

I know the museum and tour were supposed to impress upon us the squalid conditions in which these people had to live, because they had no other options, but honestly, all I could think the whole time was “I know several people who would kill for this apartment!”

Then it was back to San Francisco, to see the doctor, the dentist, the bikini waxer, and basically get everything fluffed and buffed and ready to take off for Korea!


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Can You Dig It?

My Road Trip Route

My Road Trip Route

It has been an action-packed couple of weeks, gentle friends, and may I just say, I’m glad it’s behind me.  I sold my house, and got rid of the vast majority of my stuff in anticipation of the big upcoming adventure.  Moving sucks under the best of circumstances, but trust me, the air traffic control on getting rid of large quantities of crap is way trickier than for just moving it from one house to another.  So exhausting.  Anyhoo, now I’m road trippin’ to Texas, to put my car in my dad’s garage for safekeeping while I’m gallivanting about the globe.  It’s almost 2,000 miles!  I’m giving myself a week to get there, so I can go at an easy pace.

After the Hell Week of moving, every cell in my body was whimpering pathetically in pain, so my first stop was Las Vegas, where I planned to have myself a nice, calm, restorative spa day.  Checked-in to a sexy luxe room at The Cosmopolitan (although the Google Maps mobile app seemed certain that I was, in fact, reserved at the delivery entrance behind the Bellagio–it would not direct me anywhere else).  This room was gorgeous.  However, there had apparently been some fairly significant shenanigans going on in there earlier.  When I got up there, there was a maintenance guy re-hanging the closet door, the bathroom mirror was cracked, the articulating lamp next to the bed was dangling from the wall like a disembodied arm with a compound fracture, and the TV had suffered some kind of blunt force trauma, damaging the LED right in the middle, causing an electric green splotch to appear on the forehead of any face in the center of the screen, as though a radioactive pigeon had been plaguing the set of every show I tried to watch.

Keep Refrigerated!

Keep Refrigerated!

I didn’t complain, though, because I was already kind of on the hotel manager’s watch list after having to tell him that his bell man had, somewhere between my car and my room, lost a small styrofoam cooler containing several capsules of live Typhoid virus, and that he had to find it a.s.a.p., as the virus is vulnerable to the heat (it was 95 degrees out).  I waited until the cooler had been located to tell him that, although the viruses were, indeed, alive, they were deactivated–eunuch viruses, so to speak–not an outbreak waiting to happen.  (These capsules were among a battery of travel vaccines I just got.  The others were all shots, though.  The FDA apparently recalled all the Typhoid vaccine injections; hence, the capsules, which I had to take over the course of a week, and keep refrigerated the whole time, or they would die and be useless.)  He was not amused.

The next day went smoother.  After brunch with bottomless bloody marys, I did this:

SPF 1,000

SPF 1,000 Required!

And then this:

sahra

China Poblano

China Poblano

Followed by dinner at China Poblano, a Chinese-Mexican fusion dream that finally makes it possible for Fernando and me to both have our favorite foods at the same time!  Ooh, it was good, too.  I had a Singapore Sling, chicken flautas with mole sauce, and these really imaginative, scrumptious lamb potstickers under a crispy, demure veil of cumin “lace,” with edible flower blossom garnish.  I’ve never put anything like it in my mouth before, and that’s saying something.  Just look at them!

Lamb Potstickers under crunchy cumin "lace" and chicken flautas

Lamb Potstickers under crunchy cumin “lace” and chicken flautas

After that day of indulgences, I woke up in a much improved, yet saucy mood.  So, I did what anyone would do, and I went……and dug a big hole with an excavator.  Yes, you heard me.  An excavator.

My Steed

My Steed

A Cat 315C excavator, to be exact. There’s this place across the freeway from the Strip, called “Dig This,” that is a sort of heavy equipment playground.  You can actually go and drive a big excavator.  They have bulldozers, too, but I didn’t want to just push things back and forth.  I wanted to dig a trench and pick up tractor tires and stuff.

Safety Sandbox

Roger and the Safety Sandbox

They make you take a breathalizer test first, so they don’t have a bunch of drunks out there ramming into each other.  Then, there’s a little safety class with a cute little demonstration with models in a sandbox.

I'm so pleased to have a new marketable skill!

I’m so pleased to have a new marketable skill!

Then they take you out and put you in the cab of the machine, go over everything again, and hook you up with a headset so Roger, the instructor, can communicate with you the whole time.  (He also has a remote shut-down switch for your machine around his neck, so if you go rogue, he can stop you from crossing the freeway and crashing into the Strip like Godzilla.)

Inside the Cab

Inside the Cab

There's even a hook for your purse in there!

There’s even a hook for your purse!

Never having been inside the cab of an excavator before, it took some getting used to.  It taxes the coordination a bit at first.  This lever moves the boom up and down, that lever extends the arm back and forth, this other one rotates the cab, that one opens and closes the bucket, and those two in the front operate the tracks that move the machine around.  Oh, and there’s a purse hook in there, too, for the ladies.  Very important.

Scoopin'

Scoopin’

Dumpin'

Dumpin’

After a while, I got the hang of it, and I was an excavatin’ fool!  Zooming all over the yard, spinning the cab around, digging trenches…I even won the tire stacking contest.  We even played Excavator Basketball.  It was a hoot and a half, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Carrying a giant tire

Carrying a giant tire

Tire Stacking Champion!

Tire Stacking Champion!

The excavator basketball version of dribbling

The excavator basketball version of dribbling

Swish!

Swish!

I got so carried away, I kept digging at that trench, and digging digging digging, until look what I did!

Excavator gone wild!

Excavator gone wild!

Just teasing, Roger pulled the plug on me long before I excavated across Interstate 15.  But, I did drive on to the Grand Canyon the following day.  I hadn’t been since I was a kid.  I’m sure it hasn’t changed much since then, but I don’t recall the sight of it, coming into view as you crest the trail up at the rim, having such an effect on me back then.  You’re walking up the trail, la-de-da, looking at the wildflowers and the squirrels busking for food, and then…the earth’s mouth opens up in front of you.  It’s a sight that is very hard to turn away from.  It feels disrespectful, almost, to turn and go, not knowing if or when you are going to see it again.  So, I just stood there, taking it in, until the sun was long gone.

South Rim Grand Canyon

South Rim
Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

Go at sunset, if you get the chance

Go at sunset, if you get the chance


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Lords of Corndogtown

P1020876

Santa Monica Beach and Pier

Santa Monica Beach and Pier

I was hanging out in Los Angeles last week with my friend Wendy.  The weather was perfect, cinematic Southern California summertime glory, so we wandered over to Santa Monica to go to the Pier.  One couldn’t ask for a more perfect afternoon.  Seventy-four degrees, cornflower blue skies, beautiful, tan, mostly naked people everywhere, gentle zephyrs softly distracting me from the fact that I was getting a sunburn on my pasty San Francisco skin.  It was dreamy.

"Get your kicks, on Route...."

“Get your kicks, on Route….”

I didn't even have to ask him to do that

I didn’t even have to ask him to do that

Several interesting bits of historical Californiana and pop culture intersect at the Santa Monica Pier and beach.  It’s the end point of the notorious Route 66, for one.  The original Muscle Beach was located at the Pier’s base, before Venice Beach, just a couple miles south, later assumed the title.  And more importantly, multiple episodes of Charlie’s Angels, The Incredible Hulk and Three’s Company were filmed there.  Oh yeah…and Baywatch.

Moondoggie and pals, looking for Gidget

Moondoggie and pals, looking for Gidget

He just might be cuter than Paul Newman in "The Sting"

He just might be cuter than Paul Newman in “The Sting”

That scene in Rocky III, where Rocky and Apollo are frolicking training on the Beach, was shot on Santa Monica beach.  The carousel scene in The Sting?  Santa Monica Pier.  In fact, the carousel is still there, and still in operation (sans bordello).  And don’t forget about Lords of Dogtown!

The Pier at sunset, from Santa Monica Beach

The Pier at sunset, from Santa Monica Beach

Oh, if you haven’t seen it, Lords of Dogtown is awesome!  The acting is passable at best, and Heath Ledger’s bucktooth prosthesis was distracting, but the story is great, and it is set in 1970’s Southern California, which is when/where I grew up, so it really transports me.  The astonishing soundtrack alone gets it on my list of perennial faves (along with Pretty In Pink) to tune in to whenever it’s on TBS or WGN as I’m cooking and doing laundry on Sunday afternoon.  Plus, you can see Sofia Vergara, before she was well known, make a cameo as an honest-to-goodness Dogtown Chola, as well as Alexis Arquette in drag, of course, twist her ankle and fall off her stilettos trying to get into a limo with Johnny Knoxville, which was clearly not in the script.  PS: They were both fabulous.

Surfers practicing their balance skeelz on tightropes

Surfers practicing their balance skeelz on tightropes

“Dogtown,” of course, is Santa Monica’s nickname–more specifically, the nickname of the grittier south side of Santa Monica, all the way down to Venice Beach, around where the old P.O.P. (Pacific Ocean Park) Pier was, before it burned down, and where 70’s surf and skateboard culture spawned Zephyr Surfboards’ pro skateboard team, the “Z-Boys”: Tony Alva, Jay Adams and Stacy Peralta, among others, i.e., the Lords of Dogtown.  So, strictly speaking, Dogtown proper is a smidge south of the Santa Monica Pier, down the skate/bike path a bit toward Venice Beach.

But, there at the base of the Santa Monica Pier, at the site of the original Muscle Beach, is something far more marvelous than the P.O.P.  A holy site, of sorts.  A place to which every fiber of my being was drawn, as if by gravitational force, in an unplanned mystical pilgrimage.

They seem to have dispensed with the preposition and article...or maybe the "on a" stick came later

They seem to have dispensed with the preposition and article…or maybe the “on a” stick came later

I didn’t know why I was being pulled in that direction, down the steps behind the carousel to the sand, as if in a trance.  But when I saw it, my arteries vibrated with excitement, and I just…knew.  It was the original…Hot Dog On A Stick.  The very first one, opened in 1946!  Oh yes, gentle friends.  It was the place where it all began.  To be perfectly honest, I previously had no idea that Hot Dog On a Stick originated at the Santa Monica Pier, but as I stood there, awash in the angelic choir that emanated from the

Did I have one?  Why, yes I did.

Did I have one? Why, yes I did.

ancient temple/shipping container-like structure, under the watchful eye of the corndog archangel disguised as a giant pigeon perched on the light fixture over the order window, I had an epiphany (that I immediately confirmed by looking it up on Wikipedia on my iPhone).  It was the real deal; the corndog Mecca.  So, I did what the devout do, and I got in line to receive my corndog communion.

And it was good.


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Quinderella, You Shall Go To The Balls!

I was walking home from BART one day last week, and I saw this hilarious announcement in the window of Mr. Pollo on Mission Street:Mr Pollo

Of course, because I am irretrievably juvenile, I immediately thought of this:

But, after that, I remembered the sage words of Carrie Bradshaw in that episode of Sex and the City, where Carrie is trying to convince Samantha to go to Connecticut to crazy Laney Berlin’s baby shower:  “If  you’re driving down the road, and you see a sign that says ‘Two-Headed Snake,’ you pull over!”  I figure, a four course testicle tasting menu pretty much qualifies as the culinary equivalent of a two-headed snake, so I got my phone out right then and made a reservation.  (This mindset is also how I ended up taking fire-eating/breathing lessons, but that’s a story for another post.)

Chef Jonny Becklund and his fabulous gay cowboy apron. I couldn't get the sassy fringe on the bottom hem in the shot, but trust me, it really made the ensemble.

Chef Jonny Becklund and his fabulous cowboy apron.
I couldn’t get the sassy fringe on the bottom hem in the shot, but trust me, it really made the ensemble.

Best seat in the house

Best seat in the house

So, on the day after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down DOMA and Prop 8, when Mr. Pollo’s rock star chef, Jonny Becklund, busted out his teste-centric celebratory menu, I had a VIP seat, front and center.  I can’t say I’d ever eaten Rocky Mountain oysters, Prairie Oysters, Bull Berries, or whatever you want to call them, before.  I’ve eaten grasshoppers, ant larvae, all manner of organ meats, and something unidentifiable that was dug out of a hole in the ground with a stick in India, but never testicles.  It wasn’t really on my bucket list, either, I must say.  But, I went with an open mind, and Becklund’s sense of humor, as much as his cooking, really won me over.  Gentle friends, I can honestly report, Becklund’s balls were delicious!

Yes, that's a tea bag in the soup.   Not just for comic effect, either; it really gave the broth a lovely, lemony touch

Yes, that’s a tea bag in the soup.
Not just for comic effect, either; it really gave the broth a lovely, lemony touch

The first course–and my introduction to testicle cuisine–was what Becklund called a “Ball Matzo Ball Soup,” with ground bull teste meat in the matzo ball and a lemon tea bag steeping in the broth.  That’s right.  Tea baggin‘ broth with testicle meat balls.  I could tell this was going to be a humor-filled menu.  I had a seat at the counter, and got to chat with the chef as he prepared each course.  When I laughed at the tea bag flourish, he explained, with an impish smile, that it wasn’t just for comic effect; the lemony tea bag also gave the perfectly seasoned, light broth a sort of pho-like quality that was really surprising.

The ever-so-helpful server, Will, giving advice on what wines go best with balls.  Turns out, it's dry white wine. Now you know.

The ever-so-helpful server, Will, giving advice on what wines go best with balls.  Turns out, it’s dry white wine.
Now you know.

As for the Ball-Ball, well…it wasn’t bad.  I was worried about what the texture of testes might be like (I’m big on textures), but the meat was ground up in the matzo mix, so I couldn’t really tell.  The ball was dense, like you would expect from a matzo ball, and had a vague sort of organ meaty note that might have bothered me if I didn’t know what it was.  But, since I did, I was able to process it just fine.  You know what I mean?  Like, if you think you’re about to drink milk, but you actually take a swig of Diet Coke, it tastes ghastly, but if you know it’s Diet Coke before it goes in, it’s fine.  Kind of like that.  But really, the broth was what made the dish.  Very nice.

This, gentle friends, is a testicle pizza

This, gentle friends, is a testicle pizza

To follow the soup, Becklund made a love child between an arepa (which Mr. Pollo is known for) and a pizzetta–a pizzepa?  I dunno.  But it was good.  I watched him hand press out the little arepa crusts and cook them on the griddle; he’s an arepa makin’ machine.  Then he topped them with sautéed chopped testicle meat, mushrooms, some cheese, threw them under the broiler, and then served them garnished with sam-ball (har har, get it?) oelek chili aioli and arugula (an inside joke, Becklund said, between him and Will, the server, because suddenly, in SF, every chef in town is topping pizza with arugula).  So, this super-fragrant dish had the testicle meat in pretty much it original state, but for the chopping.  I didn’t hate it.  Kinda reminded me of Vienna Sausages.  The combination of flavors and the spices on this one made it my favorite of the four courses.

I could hardly stop laughing long enough to eat it!

I could hardly stop laughing long enough to eat it!

The humor of the main course was less subtle than that of the soup.  Foreplay was over by that point, and Becklund was gettin’ down!  Crispy fried balls, unapologetically perched atop grilled zucchini, resting on a bed of arguably the most perfectly executed grits west of N’awlins, and garnished with alfalfa sprout pubes.  I know…gross, but funny!

Oh, that Chef Jonny is cheeky monkey

Oh, that Chef Jonny is cheeky monkey!

I was a little disturbed by the angry red sauce drizzle.  Not sure what kind of nightmare inspired that.  I would have gone with a buttermilk sauce, I think.  When asked, Becklund told me he was trying to put a Buffalo hot sauce flavor in there, so it wasn’t an aesthetically chosen ingredient.  And the flavor was a nice addition.

The Happy Ending

The Happy Ending

What would a family jewel themed menu be without a phallic happy ending?  Well, fortunately, I’ll never know, because dessert came in the form of a semi-frozen chocolate banana.  Why only semi-frozen?  Because Chef Becklund likes them that way.  The fully frozen ones hurt his teeth, he said.  I have to agree, I have to gum the frozen solid ones to a pulp before I can bite through them, so I was pleased these were still sort of soft.  The chocolate mantle was lovely and dark and bittersweet, with a delicate whisper of an orange blossom infusion that lightly hit you right in the back of the throat, just like a surprise of that kind should.  (Dad, if you’re reading this, please don’t infer too much from that last statement.)  The whole kaboodle was then rolled in cracked malt balls (“because, ya gotta get balls in there somewhere,” Chef Becklund said), and treated to a drizzle of a perfect caramel sauce and a pixie dust sprinkling of espresso salt.  (He let me smell the jar of espresso salt, and it was really deliciously smoky and…um…espresso-y.)  All in all, the perfect way to finish off this truly memorable fertility rite of a meal.

Blink, and you might miss it

Blink, and you might miss it.  It’s right across from 24th Street & Mission BART Station.

I asked Chef Becklund how many balls he had to buy to make this special, two-seating, event.  Seventeen pounds worth, was the answer.  All beef, because he had a hard time locating any other kind from local purveyors.  If you want testicles from other species, you have to have them shipped up from L.A., apparently.  So, given Mr. Pollo’s diminutive size–three seats at the counter, and four dinky tables–and only two sold out seatings, that calculates to a half pound of testes per person, or, about one full-sized bull ball each.  I think that’s enough, don’t you?  I just hope it doesn’t cause me to grow chest hair or give me road rage or something.  I’ll keep you posted.

Mr. Pollo's interior is bedecked with the work of local artists, friends of Chef Becklund

Mr. Pollo’s tiny interior is bedecked with the work of local artist friends of Chef Becklund

In the meantime, if you are in the neighborhood, Becklund does a different, non-testicle-based four course menu at Mr. Pollo every day for only $20.  You can’t beat that.  But get there early, or you won’t get in.  I’m telling you, this boy can cook.  I know there has been some dreary Mission District hipster drama about the changing of the guard at Mr. Pollo, when Becklund took the helm at the beginning of this year, but I can’t be bothered with all of that.  All I care about is the food, and Becklund really turns it out.  Plus, he’s a hoot and a half to chat with while he’s working.  He has “foie gras” tattooed across his knuckles (as well as a neck tattoo of someone I think might be Edward R. Murrow), and literally threw a guy out of the restaurant one night for asking him to make him a vegan arepa.  (No disrespect to the vegans out there, but come on, you don’t ask a chef with “foie gras” tattooed on his knuckles to make you a vegan anything.)  He pairs a wicked sense of humor and a white trash sensibility with a truly sophisticated palate and an artist’s creativity, and he really seems to have fun with his work.  It’s a beautiful thing.  I’ll definitely be back.


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Korean Soap Operas Will Change Your Life

This is Chilwu

This is Chilwu

I have been addicted to Korean soap operas for years, since long before K-Pop mania started sweeping the world.  Ask anyone.  It all started one day when I was sitting on the floor folding laundry, and my TiVo went to change the channel to record something, but the receiver misread the signal and changed the channel to KBS, the Korean Broadcasting Something-or-other.  There was this weird show on that kind of looked like a Korean version of Xena: Warrior Princess.  I was too lazy to get off the floor to find the remote to change the channel, so I just watched it as I folded the laundry.  It was called “Chilwu the Mighty” or “Strongest Chilwu” depending on who’s translating, and it was…hilarious.  It was set in the 1600s, and Chilwu was this lowly civil servant guy who was a masked mercenary ninja dude by night.

Screen Shot 2013-06-23 at 1.05.21 PMScreen Shot 2013-06-23 at 1.05.35 PMIn that episode, three little girls paid him in rice cakes to kill a “monster”–that turned out to be an elephant–who had supposedly killed their father.  None of them, including Chilwu, had ever seen an elephant before, so they didn’t know what it was.  Turns out, some emperor in China had given the noble of this region the elephant as a gift, and because the nobleman didn’t know what to do with it, he gave the elephant a government job as a magistrate in this little town where the little girls were from.  (I know, right!?)Screen Shot 2013-06-23 at 1.06.17 PM

Screen Shot 2013-06-23 at 1.04.24 PMThe evil magistrate who got demoted to make room for the elephant was using the elephant to trick the townspeople into paying super high taxes–which they paid in bags of rice–because he said the elephant ate so much rice that everyone had to pay more to support it.  So, the poor townspeople were starving, having to give up all their rice to this elephant.  But, in actuality, the evil magistrate was taking the rice and selling it on at a profit that he pocketed, of course, unbeknownst to the townspeople.Screen Shot 2013-06-23 at 1.07.16 PMScreen Shot 2013-06-23 at 1.07.25 PM

The beleaguered townspeople were, one by one, trying to kill the elephant to ease their tax burden, and allegedly getting killed by the elephant in the process.  Screen Shot 2013-06-23 at 1.09.18 PMBut, it was the evil magistrate’s henchmen who were killing them with a big mallet made to look like an elephant foot, and blaming the poor innocent elephant in order to scare people into compliance.  Right.  So, fast forward to Chilwu’s entrance on the scene, and they discover that the elephant eats grass, not rice, and the scam was revealed.  Screen Shot 2013-06-23 at 1.17.01 PMIn the ensuing ninja fight between Chilwu and the evil magistrate’s henchmen, Chilwu vanquished them, and the elephant broke loose and trampled the evil magistrate in a moment of perfect cinematic justice.

The Evil Magistrate, about to get it from the elephant

The Evil Magistrate, about to get it from the elephant

It was cheesy and silly and absolutely awesome.  I had to have more.  But KBS and TiVo had different schedule information, so I ended up having to record three to five hour blocks of KBS in order to capture an episode of Chilwu, and scanning through the recordings to find it.  Of course, this got me hooked on the shows that came on before and after Chilwu….and an addiction was born.

Smoosh!  Die evil magistrate!

Smoosh! Die evil magistrate!

KBS was just a gateway drug to dramafever.com, crunchyroll.com, dramacrazy.net….oh yes, the sources are many.  At any given time, I’m watching between three and five Korean serials.  I usually have at least one modern drama, a romance or romantic comedy, and a historical going, you know, so depending on my mood, there’s always something.  The production values are usually very high, the plot twists oh-so twisted, and the people are very pretty.  Plus, it’s low commitment, as most of them have only 20 or so episodes.  Some have a lot more, but most are around 20 or 30, so it’s not like American soaps, where, once you start watching, you’re on the hook for a lifetime.

One of the most fascinating things to me about watching Korean soaps, especially the ones set in modern times, is the background stuff that is just understood by the Korean audience, but is so odd and new to me.  I am constantly pestering my Korean friends with questions like: “why do Korean women eat rice in ice water for breakfast?” and “what’s with the Princess Leia towel hats Koreans wear at the sauna?”  It’s fascinating.  Some folks have no furniture in their bedrooms, and sleep on the floor; dainty, beautiful women talk unabashedly about how they poop and fart; single straight guys sleep in the same bed together without awkwardness; you always eat seaweed soup on your birthday; there are these red canvas tents on the sidewalk where people go to get drunk on soju; “side dishes” are more important in meals than the entree…oh, and the sauna!  Ahhhh…the sauna.  This is big.

The awesome Korean sauna towel hat

The awesome Korean sauna towel hat

Koreans love the “jimjilbang,” a.k.a. the sauna.  In almost every show I watch, if it’s set in modern times, people are always going to the sauna.  They go there to hang out with friends, to nap, to eat, to get massages, to sweat out a cold, to get their dead skin scrubbed off…it’s an integral part of their culture.  There’s even a talk show set in a sauna, and the hosts and all the guests wear “spa clothes,” i.e., shorts and t-shirts provided by the sauna, and the ubiquitous Korean sauna towel hat.  My friend Yvette is from Seoul, and her daughter showed me how to make the sauna hat.  It goes something like this:

Not one to be left out of the fun, I did my research and found a few Korean saunas here in the Bay Area.  Oh yes, we have them!  There’s one in San Francisco, one in San Leandro, and a couple in Santa Clara.  I personally don’t like the one in San Francisco, so I usually go to the one in San Leandro or, if I’m going with Yvette, we go to one in Santa Clara, which is probably the best one up here.  That one has a bunch of special sauna rooms, like a clay room, an ice room, and a salt room, where you dig yourself in to a thick layer of salt on the floor and bake like a salt-baked sea bass until your pores open up and gush sweat like faucets.  Oh, so good!  It’s pretty no-frills, but oooohhh, do you feel good when you leave.  Although, I have to say, after my first time having a traditional Korean sauna scrub treatment, I practically needed crisis counseling.  It’s not for the faint of heart or the modest.  Leave your body issues at home.  Seriously.

The "treatment area" at the Korean sauna

The “treatment area” at the Korean sauna

After I got naked and got all pruney in the various steam rooms and hot and cold pools, a paunchy, middle-aged Korean woman in leopard print bra and panties came and hooked her claw-like fingers around my wrist, and dragged me to the “treatment area,” and threw me on what looked like a morgue table.  She then proceeded to douse me with a bucket of water, and start vigorously scrubbing me all over with a mitten that I swear to Madonna must have been made of sandpaper.  But that wasn’t the traumatic part, that actually felt pretty good.  What I wasn’t prepared for was how they get all up in your business with this scrub.  I’m not kidding, people, they go EVERYWHERE.  That little scrub lady threw my leg over her shoulder and scrubbed my bikini zone, practically sanded my nipples off, and flipped me over and scrubbed my ass (even between the cheeks)!  I was so shocked that I just started laughing, and she threw a towel over my face to quiet me down and kept scrubbing.  She scrubbed my earlobes, the tips of my toes, my armpits…basically, every centimeter of my body.  She then doused me with another bucket of water, and started over with a mitten of a finer gauge sandpaper.

These are the scrubber mitts they use at the sauna

These are the scrubber mitts they use at the sauna

Dead skin was flying off of me like sawdust off of a piece of timber being sent through a band saw.  It was gross and viscerally satisfying all at the same time.  Once she had given me the full Karen Silkwood treatment, she  grated up a cucumber and patted the pulp all over my face, and then yanked my head up to the top edge of the table and washed my hair like she was pounding laundry on a washboard in a creek.  Then she squirted hot soy milk all over me from a condiment bottle, and sent me to the shower to rinse off, before she slathered me with Kirkland brand baby oil, climbed on top of me and gave me a bone crushing massage with her elbows and knees.  When it was over, I was all red like I had a sunburn, a bit shaky from the violation/embarrassment, noodley from the massage/beating, and missing a weird mole that had been growing for a while on my collarbone.  I was also soft as a Swedish baby bunny’s bottom.  All over.  I couldn’t keep my hands off myself!  And the softness lasted for, like, three weeks!  Needless to say, I was hooked, and I’m a regular customer now.  I go every four weeks, without fail, to keep the barnacles away.  Oh, it feels so good!  I don’t even care about the Korean scrub ladies cackling away in Korean over my big ass; I know they’re talking about me, but I figure it’s their right.  If my job was to scrub dead skin off of people’s behinds, I bet I’d want to crack jokes about it, too, just to make it more bearable.

I didn't take this picture, but you get the idea

I didn’t take this picture, but you get the idea

Ooh, I almost forgot!  Some of the Korean saunas are open 24 hours, and you can even spend the night at those.  I noticed in a few of the Korean soaps I watch that people would sleep at the sauna when they went out of town, instead of getting a hotel.  You put your stuff in a locker, enjoy the sauna, have a meal in the cafe, watch tv in the common area, and then toss a mat on the heated floor in the sleeping area and sack out.  All for the regular price of admission to the sauna, which is nothing compared to even a cheap motel.  I asked Yvette if this really was common in Korea, and she said it is, and that there are a few Korean saunas in Los Angeles’ Koreatown that allow it.  “Shut up!” I said, “we are so going.”  So, last week, Yvette was going to L.A. to pick up her daughter from college anyway, so we drove down together and had ourselves a full blown Korean sauna slumber party.  We spent the first night at the Wi Spa, which is the one everyone knows and writes about–you see it mentioned in the L.A. Times on occasion.  It’s new and fancy and huge.  I didn’t like it.  The hot pools didn’t look that clean, and most of the people there were non-Asian, and didn’t seem to get the whole “peace and quiet and relaxation” concept, and were yapping away and on their cell phones and generally being obnoxious and inconsiderate to everyone around them.  Plus, the heated floor in the sleeping area was so hot that I was sweating buckets, and had to get up and go sleep on the floor in the ladies’ locker room.  It was not restful.  But the next night, we stayed at the smaller, less well known Grand Spa, which I liked a lot.  Super clean, nice facilities, comfy rest area, and they had little separate sleeping rooms that could accommodate only about five sleeping mats at the most, so we commandeered one for ourselves, and had more peace and quiet.  Although, this woman wandered into the room in the middle of the night and dragged off the extra mats in there, and yelled at us for bogarting them.  I guess we deserved that.  They had a little cafe, and a tv room, and I think I was the only non-Asian there, so it was really quiet and orderly.  It was nice.  I had a scrub and a massage, so they waived the entry fee, meaning my overnight stay cost nothing!  But, even if I had paid the entry fee, it would have only been $20 for the night.  You really can’t beat it.  The next morning, I was so excited when I woke up and heard this little old Korean lady talking on her cell phone, and I could understand what she was saying!  I thought “oh, my years of watching Korean soap operas have paid off, the language is finally sinking in!”  But, then I realized, she was speaking Spanish with a very heavy Korean accent.  That’s why I could understand her!  Oh well.

Blow-Your-Mind Dumplings at Myung In in K-Town L.A.

Blow-Your-Mind Dumplings at Myung In in K-Town L.A.

In between sauna sleepovers, we ate and shopped our way through Koreatown.  There are tons of little malls, with all sorts of shops and restaurants.  We had the most badass dumplings I’ve ever put in my mouth at Myung In Man Du, which I knew about from a recent episode of Anthony Bourdain’s show.  The artist David Choe took Bourdain to this “man du” shop for dumplings, and now I know why.  Big and pillowy and fresh and perfectly seasoned, we ate shrimp dumplings and chicken dumplings and pork dumplings and red bean dumplings until we were stuffed like dumplings and about to pop.  (Choe also took Bourdain to Sizzler and made him meatball tacos from the buffet, which I thought was hilarious, but we didn’t do that.)

These should be sold as a set, don't you think?

These should be sold as a set, don’t you think?

IMG_2818

We went to the beauty supply and bought face masks, and the music store for karaoke practice music and K-Pop socks, and had our feet reflexologied, and went to the bakery and had fresh Korean red bean donuts, which are way better than they sound.

Patbingsu

Patbingsu

"Miss Coffee" in K-Town L.A.

“Miss Coffee” in K-Town L.A.

We ended the day at “Miss Coffee,” where we did not have coffee, but “patbingsu,” a Korean shaved ice dessert.  The house classic came with berries, bananas, chocolate sauce and the ever-present red bean paste over green tea flavored shaved ice, all served in an 8-cup Pyrex measuring cup.   No individual bowls, everyone just dug right in.  I must say, it was delicious!  Lighter than ice cream, but not as crystalline as a sno-cone.  I’m a fan.

I’ve had Korean friends for a long time, but until I expressed interest in their culture, they didn’t think to include me in all of the wacky, wonderful Korean rituals that are part of their daily world.  I never would have known to express any specific curiosity or interest had I not gotten addicted to Korean soap operas, as a result of being too lazy to get off my butt to get the remote that day I was folding laundry on the floor, and Chilwu ninja-chopped his way into my life.  So, thank you, Chilwu.  I am forever changed, and eternally grateful for it!  Kamsahamnida!


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Update: Cheese Thingy Located!

Tamarindo's chicharrón de queso

Tamarindo’s chicharrón de queso

Thanks to Frances Y. for hunting down a place here in the Bay Area that serves an honest to goodness chicharrón de queso! Yes, gentle friends, the glorious, crispy column of cheese can be had without traveling all the way to Mexico City — you just have to pop over the bridge to Oakland, to Tamarindo Antojeria Mexicana on 8th Street in Old Oakland. As soon as Frances told me she spotted the chicharrón de queso mentioned on Urbanspoon.com’s entry for Tamarindo, I ran right over there.  And lo…it was the real thing.  A little bit thicker than the one I had in Mexico City, so somewhat chewier by the time you get to the middle part, but just as crispy at the edges, and oh so very tasty!

Cactus-Kiwi Margarita

Cactus-Kiwi Margarita

It has a sprinkle of something spicy in it, which was really nice, and is served with some really yummy house-made salsas, which complemented it nicely.  Paired with a cactus-kiwi margarita, it made for the perfect snack for la hora feliz!  But it’s only on the dinner menu, so don’t plan on having it for lunch.

Love and corndogs to you, Frances, and to everyone else, like my girl Nora, who was on the case to find this delicacy here in the ‘hood!  ¡Salud!


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Would You Like An Interactive Media Experience With Your 250-Calorie Corndog?

I had a rough day yesterday, and decided I deserved a corndog, so I popped over to the closest Wienerschnitzel, which is over across the bridge in Alameda.

Two things.

caloriesFirst, they have added the calorie counts to the menu for every item they sell.  I do not like this trend.  I know…I know…obesity epidemic, informed consumerism, corporate disclosure, blah blah blah.  I get it.  But, kind of like those warning labels on Windex bottles that say “Do Not Spray In Eyes,” I sort of feel like anyone who actually needs to be told that fast food is high in calories, probably can’t read or understand the warning sign anyway.  (And what’s with those signs in the drive-thru about Braille menus available upon request?  At the drive-thru!  But, I digress….)  And, personally, I prefer to have the sin value of my treats remain tucked aside in my peripheral awareness.  But that’s me.  I suppose I can appreciate the information in another context, where it doesn’t try to sully my corndog-specific indulgences.  Actually, the 250 calories disclosed for the classic corn dog at Wienerschnitzel wasn’t a buzz kill for me.  I thought it would be worse.  If it had been a lot higher, it might have damaged my relationship to them, like when you find out how many past lovers your current paramour has had, and it’s a way bigger number than you imagined….it doesn’t help.  I prefer that information remain cloaked in mystery.

bar codeSecond, you’ll be glad to hear, we can now rest easy that we won’t be left alone with our own thoughts or the conversation of our dining partners for the four and a half minutes it takes to eat a corndog.  No, thank goodness, they have added a media experience to the wrapper to keep us entertained and further justify our constant staring into our smartphones.  Just scan the bar code, and it pulls up a video with a fascinating tale of corndog history:

Yes, I admit it, I did it.  I scanned the code with my phone and watched the video while I was eating.  Of course, I did.  I was sitting in a Wienerschnitzel in Alameda, by myself, at 1:30 in the afternoon on a Monday.  Plus, I was curious about what new corndog fact they might throw down.  Turns out, not much.  Plus, everyone knows that Wienerschnitzel didn’t invent the corndog; they didn’t open until 1961, and corndogs have been around since at least the 20’sWhile I was watching it, all I could think was, how funny would it be to hack the link in their bar code and replace it with this way better corndog video (click here if the embedded video below doesn’t work):

Now, that’d be worth distracting yourself from your corndog for!


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Madonna Wants You To Know About This Cheese Thingy

Chicharrón de Queso

Chicharrón de Queso

I’ve been having trouble getting to sleep lately, so I downloaded this app to my iPhone that is supposed to help you relax and fall asleep faster.  It’s narrated by a Scottish dude who sounds like Liam Neeson in the movie Rob Roy, which, all by itself, made the thing worth the $2.99 I paid for it.  So, last night, I tried it, and I don’t know if it was the app, or that icy Grey Goose martini I had beforehand, but I fell into a deep, dreamy sleep, and didn’t wake up until almost noon today.  Whew, I needed that!  While I was out, I had a really vivid dream that I was riding around in an SUV with Madonna–she was driving–and she was insistent on finding a place that served “chicharrón de queso.”  She was pronouncing it correctly, too, in a very exaggerated way, like when white, midwestern news anchors suddenly bust out a latin accent when they say the word “Nicaragua.”  Anyway, I kept trying to tell Madonna that the only place I knew that served it is in Mexico City, and she said “That’s fine, we can be there in 20 minutes.”  I guess that SUV could transform into the Concorde!  After I woke up, I turned on PBS while I was sipping my coffee, and there’s Rick Bayless in Mexico City, eating chicharrón de queso at a taqueria!  How weird is that?

Those are Bruno's hands

Those are Bruno’s hands

So, I feel like the universe–and Madonna–are telling me to find and/or make this delicious, cheesy snack, as though my life might depend on it.  I’m not sure where to find it in San Francisco.  The only place I’ve ever had it, as I repeatedly told Madonna, was in Mexico City.  My friend Bruno introduced me to it at a D.F. taqueria in the middle of the night, after we had been out and about.  When he suggested it, just from the name, I was afraid it had something to do with pork rinds, of which I am not a fan.  But, no…it is just cheese.  Nothing but cheese.  Cheese, cheese and more cheese, grilled on a hot griddle until the fat comes out of it, and then it’s shaped to cool into a perfectly crisp cylinder.  Oh, cheeses-mary-and-joseph, it is out of this world fantastic.  It’s the Mexican cousin of the Italian frico, the lacy, dainty Parmesan crisp.  Ain’t nothin’ dainty about the chicharrón de queso, though.  Just like Mexico itself, it is big, and salty and caramelized and imposing, and absolutely worth every ounce of plaque in your arteries that it may deposit.  Although, since they brush the fat out of it as it cooks, it might actually not be all that bad.  Yeah…let’s go with that.

If anyone knows of a place in the SF Bay Area where I can find a good one, please let me know.  Barring that, I’m thinking I may need to make it myself.  Thank goodness for youtube!  Check it out — it actually doesn’t look that hard (although this guy isn’t going with the traditional cylindrical shape–we’ll forgive him, though, because of his groovy soundtrack):


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Customer Service Is Not Dead a.k.a. My Lifelong Obsession with the Tom Collins

Chena Hot Springs Lodge

Chena Hot Springs Lodge

This past St. Patrick’s Day, I was sitting with my dad in the bar at the Chena Hot Springs Lodge, about 60 miles outside of Fairbanks, Alaska.  We had been together for a week already, and had kind of run out of small talk, so we were just kind of sitting there quietly, sipping our hot toddies, checking out the various taxidermied animals on the walls, and enjoying our post-hot springs soak state of relaxation.

I was wrong, it wasn't Schweppes, it was Canada Dry (Image courtesy of the bottlecapman.com)

I was wrong, it wasn’t Schweppes, it was Canada Dry
(Image courtesy of the bottlecapman.com)

I don’t really know why this occurred to me at that particular moment, but out of the blue, I said to my dad: “Hey Dad, remember that phase I went through when I was about eight or nine years old, when all I would drink was Tom Collins Mixer?”

My dad furrowed his brow and looked askance at me.  “Tom Collins Mixer?” he said, like he’d never heard of it.

“Yeah, the mixer for a Tom Collins cocktail.  It came in a green bottle, like tonic water.  I think Schweppes made it.  Remember, I used to ask for cases of it for my birthday?”

Then, he started to laugh, and said, yeah, he remembered something about that, and we proceeded to try to remember how I had been introduced to it in the first place (we think it was probably Uncle Frank’s doing), what a peculiar kid I was to get addicted to Tom Collins Mixer at age eight, and pondered if one could still buy the stuff, or if the Tom Collins had gone totally out of style.  It was really good, tasted kind of like carbonated SweeTarts.

That's the stuff!! (Image from Ebay.com)

That’s the stuff!!
(Image from Ebay.com)

As we were talking, the cute young bartendress (who didn’t look old enough to drink legally) went and sat in the corner with a tattered old bartender’s guide.  We didn’t pay that much attention to her, really.  But after a bit, she came over and set a tall glass of something fizzy and vaguely lemony-looking down in front of me and said “Let me know if this is it.”

The girl had gone and looked up the recipe for a Tom Collins in her book, and made me a glass of the mixer from scratch!  How sweet is that?  I was so touched, that I kept to myself that she had missed the mark entirely, and told her she had made it just right.  We have to reward effort, right?  That’s customer service — give your people what they want before they even ask for it.

See?  The vintage ads for Collins Mixer show a maraschino cherry in the glass (Image from Ebay.com)

See? The vintage ads for Collins Mixer show a maraschino cherry in the glass
(Image from Ebay.com)

Since then, I’ve been thinking I should lead a one-woman campaign to bring back the Tom Collins in time for Summer.  So, I hereby officially declare it the QP Cocktail of the Summer for 2013!  You’re going to love it.  It’s really quite light, zesty and refreshing.  I prefer the vodka variety to the classic with gin, but you do what you want.

As it appears that neither Schweppes nor Canada Dry makes Collins Mixer anymore, here’s a poncey British video on how to make a proper Tom Collins from scratch, which I chose mostly because I think the bartender demonstrating for the camera is super adorable — check out that sizzlin’ look at 2:14 when he pours the gin in the shaker!  I have to take issue with the lack of a maraschino cherry as garnish–that is an absolute requirement for a Tom Collins.  But, otherwise, this looks delicious, as does “Mauro”:

Sexy Latin Guy Makes a Tom Collins

Who’s with me?!