June 29, 2012

Papa Needs Ya

How long you been kicking around that Pamplona trip to run with the bulls? Festival starts next week... you'll never make it. Reckon a sail down to Cuba will scratch your itch? Not unless you fancy a full cavity search by the U.S. Treasury... and they know all the right places to look. 

No, best advice I can give as you think about how to celebrate the life and spirit of Ernest Hemingway (born July 21st, 1899) is to gird your liver and head down to the First Edition Society party at the Hotel Havana

Saturday, July 21 (6-11:30p)
$30 per person gets you open bar, good eats, and live music by Son y No Son
Proceeds will benefit the San Antonio Public Library Foundation, and capacity is limited, so hurry on and get your tickets here

If the party is sold out, there's a come-one-come-all gathering downstairs. The fine people at Ocho have agreed to donate a portion of the evening's proceeds to the SAPLF, and they'll be serving up a five dollar mixture of Bacardi 1909, Lime, Grapefruit, Maraschino... something they call a Hemingway Daiquiri. And while his is a name that "conjures as many cocktails as there are bars in the world" (ref), this is one that's not to be missed. 

1015 Navarro Street
San Antonio, TX 78205

The First Ed Society is a group of young San Antonians who support the mission of the San Antonio Public Library Foundation. 

June 24, 2012

Turning Over

Hotel Monaco | Chinatown 
3510 O Street NW | Georgetown 
Cashion's Eat Place | Adam's Morgan 
room with a view, 14th Street NW 
In a town known more for it's lack of speed and efficiency than anything else, Washington's bars and restaurants turn over with surprising regularity. Prevailing winds from election cycles determine what's in and what's out, so it was no shock to see all the changes that've come about since we left just four years ago: Georgetown stock is down while U Street and Chinatown are up; Foggy Bottom seems to have added entire city blocks out of nowhere; and Adam's Morgan is still Adam's Morgan, crowded and hot and too young - or I'm too old... and always will be.  

Friday night was the final night of a long week spent re-tracing my steps through some old haunts and enjoying some new ones in the process. We started at the Hotel Monaco for a happy hour that turned into happy hours. Hordes of Assistant U.S. Attorneys on hand; I had no idea one man could have so many assistants. But there they were, some of our best and brightest, drinking as though they were fresh off forty years in the desert.

Afterwards, one of those wanderers and his wife and I grabbed dinner at Graffiato, which inhabits an old space where years ago I watched countless college football games, drowning sorrows under cover of a windowless space that served cold stale beer from corroded tubes. Now there's a kitchen dishing up black truffle pizza with fontina and a "farm soft egg"... cracked and smothered by farm-soft hands, presumably. I stayed away from anything on draft.

Dinner ended and we went back to my buddy's house and relived some more memories of youth... a thirteen year old video of a road trip our junior year through the South: Austin to Dallas, then to Memphis, Savannah, and Charleston. It's a wonder the shit we used to pull, yet somehow figuring a way to emerge both unscathed and un-indicted. Though judging by the actions of the litigators I spent time with earlier in the evening, maybe there really wasn't all that much to worry about.  

June 21, 2012

Supreme Functionality

I've always wondered what would happen if the bottle were refilled with a brand other than Kikkoman; fearing the worst, however, that's where my curiosity about such things both begins and ends.

Thanks to my weekly Full Plate for turning me on to the piece about the enduring design of the ubiquitous soy sauce dispenser. I've now been staring at mine for longer than I'd ever imagined possible (at least 20 seconds).

photo via: New York Times.

June 18, 2012

Wrong Side

The Wrong Side is an effort to create something new and fresh through collaboration, always for the greater good. We feel that when passionate people work together, fantastic things can happen. And that no matter which side you’re on, so long as you believe in what you do, you’ll never be on the wrong side.

A couple summers ago my brother and I were down at Caroline Matthews’ Southtown studio – Dos Carolinas – getting measured for guayaberas, when we noticed heaps of cast-off fabric scraps. Cotton and linen and seersucker, all destined for the garbage. 

We asked to rummage through to see what might be salvageable in order to give it another life. That second life came by way of a collaboration of sorts, where we’ve taken this fabric and fashioned it into pocket squares and cocktail napkins. Everything is handmade in San Antonio by Fuerza Unida – a local sewing cooperative dedicated to empowering the community – and a portion of our sales will go back to them. 

This is our first collaboration and there’ll be more to come. But we started with fabric because we felt that it represented well the place in which we live. The fabric of our character, if you will… repurposed, with a purpose.

Stop by the website, let us know what you think, and check back at the shop, which we're building out each day. Meantime, if you're here in San Antonio, head over and say hey to our friends at Meadow, who've been good enough to sell our inaugural batch.  

June 11, 2012

Garden Variety Economics

There was a Washington Post stand just across the street from my old apartment. It was stocked fresh each morning, and I’d usually grab one on my way to work. The beauty of it was that the latch was broken, which set the price per word at a very agreeable "zero". Mysteriously, it was only filled during the week, but I’d pay full fare for the Saturday and Sunday editions in order to assuage some lingering fear of karmic retribution, which in turn allowed me to continue depleting the resources of this magical newspaper stand free from guilt. And thus the cycle ran.

So what does that make me? In economic terms I guess I'd be a 'free-rider', benefiting beyond my fair share thanks to the oversight generosity of others. Or perhaps I’m just a dreadful SOB who did his small part to hasten the downfall of print.

Regardless of what you'd call me I didn't lose much sleep, but a situation has come about  that forced me to think about this a bit…  

Just recently a community garden popped up a couple blocks over, and I've watched it flourish in spite of drought and vermin through the hard work of a bunch of neighbors that I don't know. The rules aren't overly clear about who works and who takes, so I've been exploiting that ambiguity by picking things here and there while giving very little back to the growing process.

Textbook example of why communism doesn't work. "'From each according to his ability…?' Whatever. Though I’ll be taking that kale now, if you don't mind."

Then this past the weekend I saw something inspiring… the ol' garden finally got smart to the capitalist ways of the world and set up shop on the corner to peddle its harvest. $3/lb for tomatoes and $0.50 each for peppers… Anaheim and Banana. All of that plus some homegrown basil found its way into our supper last night, and, having paid market rate, we enjoyed it... guilt free.

June 5, 2012

In and Out - Minneapolis

room with a view 
821 Marquette Ave | Minneapolis, MN

in the land of nuts and honey

Minneapolis impressed me from the moment I saw its skyline. This city built on flour and sawmills, towering over the Mississippi River, which is wider here so far north than I’d have guessed, though I can’t say why; perhaps it’s that my primary point of reference is so far south, near the wide mouth, where it splits New Orleans along its East and Westbanks.  

We stayed at the W, which welcomed us with its customary low light and pink neon, a contemporary twist on the refurbished Foshay Tower (completed in 1929) that it inhabits. Kudos to the design firm for maintaining much of the Deco opulence of the original, from the ceilings to the floors to the doors (well, the elevator doors at least).  

Dinner was at Bar La Grassa, situated in what seems to be the classically gentrifying warehouse district of Name-Your-Major-American-City... fringe of downtown, near a stadium, just past the strip of run down sex toy shops. There’s the valet. Give him the keys and cross your fingers that he didn’t just leave the “theatre” down the street.

Our food was superb. Soft eggs and lobster with truffle oil on bruschetta. Fresh pasta colored black with squid ink, sea urchin chili, mussels and tomato. Foie Gras tortellini. Ok, some things were a little rich and absurd. Not the martinis.

Next morning our sunny May gave way to wind and lightning. I… groggy, comfortable, eleven stories up and watching the rain pour, nevertheless… made my way out of downtown towards General Mills World Headquarters, just outside the city. It’s less a headquarters and more a campus. Glass and steel modernism constructed across five decades, with the main building (completed in 1958) used as the foundation and reinterpreted in those that followed. The walls were adorned with an impressive collection of contemporary art that augments the aesthetic...

… and the cereal was great. 

800 North Washington Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55401