Thursday, July 29, 2010

LL Bean Moccasins, old and new

Several months back I made a trip to a thrift store in Roswell and came across two pairs of old LL Bean moccasins--a pair of blucher mocs and a pair of camp mocs. Having been in possession of a pair of the current Bean blucher mocs for a little while, I was quite intrigued at the superior quality of the leather on the old pair of bluchers, as well as the difference in the shape of the toe box. Since both pairs fit, in spite of their worn out soles, I went ahead and bought them both (something like $15 total).

Old bluchers, after being resoled

It was a while before I finally took the old bluchers in to get resoled, but I was able to take them to my local shoe repair place and get actual moccasin soles put on them, and I also replaced the leather liner on the inside of the shoe. Upon comparing them to the current versions, I have reached these conclusions.

Old bluchers

Current bluchers

1. The toe box on the old pair is superior. It is rounder and more elongated; the modern pair has a squarer, stumpier toe box. The older pair just plain looks better.
2. The vamp on the older pair is a bit higher. This isn't necessarily a good or bad thing, but for wearing with shorts, and for slipping on and off without untying the laces, the lower vamp is better.
3. The leather on the old pair is much better. It is thicker, sturdier, looks better, and is clearly able to improve its appearance with age. The modern leather is thinner, looks faker, and seems incapable of developing any sort of patina. However, I will say that the leather used on the modern version is much softer and more comfortable.
4. Of somewhat less importance, the older version of the moccasin sole generally looks better compared the high-tech-looking sole used on the modern pair.

"Are your shoes from the future?"

Regarding the camp mocs, that has been a bit of a different story. I tried to purchase a pair of the modern camp mocs a couple of years ago, but had real trouble with the sizing. I couldn't get a pair that would fit snugly enough on my feet without being too tight. I ended up giving up and exchanging them for the blucher mocs that I have. The camp mocs that I found at the thrift store seemed to fit pretty well, however, and I was pretty excited about getting them back into working condition.

However, I took them back up to above-mentioned cobbler (this was after I got the blucher mocs resoled), and was told by the owner that the company that made the moccasin soles is no longer making them and that he couldn't get any. I was pretty miffed by this; you mean to tell me that there is no company in the entire country, or world even, that makes the old-style moccasin soles? I ended up deciding to just take my shoes back and wait until I could find someone else to put the proper sole on them.

I ended up taking them to Midtown Shoe Repair about three weeks ago. I brought in my pair of old blucher mocs to show the guy what I wanted, and he seemed confident that he could do what I wanted. He told me it would be two weeks, and after waiting patiently, I went back up there this past Saturday. Upon getting the shoes back, I saw that they had a boat shoe-style sole on them. "This isn't what I wanted" I told the guy. In his broken English he told me, like the other cobbler told me, that the company that he used to get them from no longer makes them. It didn't matter, I was still pretty peeved that he went ahead and put the wrong soles on them. Maybe if he had asked for my phone number when I dropped off the shoes, he could have called and told me that he couldn't get what I wanted. Knowing that there was little I could do at this point, I went ahead and paid and knew that I wouldn't take my business there again. I will still continue to seek out someone who can put the right soles on them, but I guess I will wear them in the meantime.

So, aside from the soles, how is this old version of camp mocs? Pretty good, I would say. While I can't do a direct comparison since I don't have a pair of the modern camp mocs, the superiority of the old pair mostly comes down to the superior leather. As you can see, these shoes have taken on some very good character, and in spite of their age (who knows how old they are), they are still in very good condition. The laces are even the original ones (or at least the ones that were on them when I bought them). The fit is alright; the right shoe is pretty tight on my instep, and they could be a little most snug in the heel, but overall they work pretty well. If I actually wore them with socks, they'd probably fit even better.

Boat shoe sole on a moccasin: what a travesty

So what can be taken from this comparison? Well, LL Bean's camp and blucher mocs have certainly changed over the past decades. While they are still classic, versatile, affordable and reliable footwear, the old versions are simply better. I think that LL Bean needs to go back to a better quality leather and use the old pattern (including the old toe box). I can't really think of a reason why Bean would sell the current version, except that it is likely cheaper to make, and possibly represents a greater profit margin. My plea to Bean, and to Alex Carleton and the team at LL Bean Signature: bring back the old version, even if it costs a little more. It's simply better.

ICON CJ series

You may remember my SUV Showdown poll last July, in which the Land Rover Defender crushed the competition as the best SUV on and off the road. On my wrap up post, I mentioned one of my personal favorites, the FJ series by ICON. ICON is a Los Angeles-based company which takes old Toyota Land Cruisers, strips them down to their frames, and completely rebuilds them with all new components. Old Land Cruisers are amazing on their own, but these are simply incredible.

I recently noticed that ICON is now offering a line of CJs. CJs (including the most well-known models, the CJ-7 and CJ-8) were civilian versions of the Willys jeep, and the predecessor of the Jeep Wrangler. Like FJs, CJs are awesome in their own right, but the ICON versions are true off-road monsters.

Like the ICON FJs, the CJs are available in both "old school" and "new school" styles.

Old school

New school

Interested in one? Hopefully you've got pretty good credit because the two CJs that are currently available for sale on the website are $96,000 and $101,000, respectively. If that's a bit of sticker shock for you, just look at some more awesome pictures and wish for the day that you finally win the lottery.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Antico Pizza

Last week I went out to eat at Antico Pizza with some folks for my friend Chris' birthday. I had had pizza from Antico before, but hadn't ever eaten there. While the pizza was delicious the previous time I had it, eating at the restaurant is a whole experience in and of itself.

Antico is located at 1093 Hemphill Ave NW, which is just northwest of Georgia Tech's campus. Needless to say, it's not the trendiest part of town, but really, who wants to go to a restaurant in the trendiest part of town? The restaurant itself is pretty tiny; it originally only had the small front dining room and was meant to be more of a take-out place, but as more and more people wanted to eat there, the owners decided to add some tables in the kitchen. This is now the best seat in the house. Things are loud and bustling, you have to stand at some of the tables since there aren't any chairs, and the fluorescent lights aren't exactly romantic.

From your table you can watch the cooks making the pizzas, putting them in the ovens (which were reportedly imported from Italy), and pulling out the bubbling, crispy pies, which are cut and carried about 20 steps straight to your table.

Photo from Yelp

All the atmosphere in the world wouldn't make any difference if the food wasn't worth eating. Fortunately, this pizza is worth it. If you're from Atlanta, you may already be familiar with Antico's reputation as, arguably, the best pizza in Atlanta. While some online reviews indicate that the pizza is overrated, I have to disagree. I really do think that it's some of the best in the city. Chris and I ordered the Pizza Bianca (white pizza), pictured below; it was very good, though I would say that it was a little too intense with the amount of ricotta on top. When we ordered from Antico at my office, I got to try several of their other combinations and I remember the San Gennaro being particularly good.

Photo from Yelp

Perhaps one of the best things about the restaurant is that it is BYOB (or BYOW). We stopped off at Hop City (arguably the best beer store in Atlanta, and right around the corner from Antico) beforehand to get the necessary provisions. I picked up a 6-pack of Birra Moretti as I felt like an Italian beer was the most appropriate choice.

One final thing to note is that the seating situation can be a little touch-and-go. You order at the counter, and then it's up to you find a place to eat. Given the limited number of tables and the popularity of this place, this is quite a difficult proposition, especially at peak hours. Fortunately, the restaurant does take reservations for large parties (I think that we had 12 or 14 and were able to get two tables to ourselves), but it's probably best to bring some patience along with you regardless.

All photos were taken on my Blackberry, unless otherwise indicated.

Leather Man Ltd. grosgrain leather tab & buckle belts

It's no secret that I am a fan of belts, as indicated by my previous posts on the subject (here, here, here, and here), but the one at the top of my list right now is the grosgrain leather tab & buckle belt from Leather Man Ltd.

Obviously the love child of an emblematic belt and a grosgrain belt, two staples of a preppy wardrobe, this belt offers the casualness of grosgrain, but is made a little more formal by the leather tab and buckle. Additionally, it's a more practical choice as the d-rings the typically come on grosgrain belts can be a pain. Also, like most belts from Leather Man, they're pretty affordable at only $28.

To be honest, the selection of grosgrain patterns that Leather Man currently offers for these belts is simply OK--it could be better. However, these are some of personal picks, all of which would make an easy transition from summer to fall.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Officially Pre-ordered

Well, my paranoia got the best of me tonight. Fearing that the Take Ivy reprint might actually sell out if I didn't go ahead and order, I placed my pre-order, and while I was at it, I placed my pre-order for True Prep. I'll admit that I'm more excited about the latter, but having the former certainly won't be bad. August 31st and September 7th should be awesome days.

Now we will finally see what those creepy Japanese dudes were really writing about.

Can Lisa Birnbach do any wrong? I'm still tempted to ask her to be my Facebook friend...

More New Music

I haven't bought any new music in a while, and going on a retreat this weekend, last night I thought that it might be time. I went on iTunes and this is what I got:

A.A. Bondy- When the Devil's Loose

I got A.A. Bondy's first album, American Hearts, last May (I did a post on it then) and loved it. When the Devil's Loose, his second album, has been out for a little while, but just I finally got around to buying it. I purchased it with little hesitation, and upon the first couple of listenings, it has not let me down. It should be noted that Bondy is originally from Birmingham, so obviously it's good, since nothing bad has ever come out of Birmingham (except for Larry Langford).

Robert Plant & Allison Krauss- Raising Sand

I based my decision to buy this album mostly on hearing the songs "Killing Blues" and "Please Read the Letter," which I had heard on internet radio stations before. I figured that it might be similar to All the Roadrunning, the album that was put out in 2006 by Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris (an album which I hate at first, but eventually became one of my favorites). The actual duet on Raising Sand are easily some of the highlights of the album, and I feel like Krauss' solo songs are a lot weaker. It could have something to do with all of the pedal steel that's present in the duets... Perhaps the other songs will grow on me as I listen more.

Zac Brown Band- The Foundation

Part of me still can't believe I bought this album. One of the main reasons I don't like popular country music is because of the trite and cliche lyrics. Perhaps no song embodies trend this more than the Zac Brown Band song "Chicken Fried," but for whatever reason, I absolutely love it. There are a couple of Jimmy Buffetesque songs on here too which I would love to listen to while sitting on the beach by the Gulf (assuming there aren't tar balls everywhere). It comes across as a pretty unsophisticated album at first, but I think that there is some better instrumentation and some more lyrical depth than there initially appears, and the guys are from Georgia, so how could I not like them? Plus, Ben the Bunnyman, of the Regular Guys fame, is featured on the last track. I guess I can consider this my "guilty pleasure" purchase.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

DIY Peach Moonshine

Last spring I went with some friends up to the Block House Steeplechase up in Tryon, NC. It was my first steeplechase, but was a quite a good time (you can read my post about it here).

While we were there, there were some reps from a North Carolina-based company called Y'all Liquor who were walking around offering samples of their new line of moonshine that they working on creating (as a side note, I should point out that it would appear that their company never seemed to get off the ground as the website that they had was eventually taken down). I'm not sure that I had ever tried moonshine before, but I thought it was pretty good, though I really liked the peach moonshine that they let us try (complete with a peach in the mason jar).

For some reason, the peach 'shine stuck with me and I kept waiting for the company to begin offering it. Back in April, as it became apparent that the product wasn't ever going to make it to my local liquor store, I began thinking about my alternatives. After doing some requisite Googling, the most useful site I came up with was this thread on a home distilling message board. I had to kind of apply their suggestions as best I could, but finally came up with a game plan and gave it a shot.

Since moonshine is nothing other than un-aged corn whiskey (only its illegal production really makes it proper moonshine), there is a brand of corn liquor called Georgia Shine that is pretty easy to find in most liquor stores. I went to the liquor store and picked up a 750 mL bottle of the 100 proof version (they also make an 80 proof version that comes in a large mason jar). I felt like when it came to moonshine, the greater the burn, the better, hence my decision to go with the 100 proof.

I then went to the grocery store and picked up a can of peach halves. Fresh peaches weren't really in season yet, and I wanted to get some that weren't in heavy syrup so that I could have better control over how sweet it came out, and I ended up going with these Margaret Holmes brand (whatever that is).

Already being in possession of a bunch of mason jars, I divided the peaches into two jars, and poured the 'shine over the peaches. I gave the jars a couple of tumbles and let them sit.

I would usually give them a turn or two each day, and basically let them sit for about two months, giving them a taste every now and then. It took quite a while for much of the peach taste to come through, especially with the high percentage of alcohol. The amount of flavor seemed to pretty much level off after about 6-8 weeks. In June, I got my hands on some fresh peaches, and following some of the suggestions found on the above mentioned forum thread, I drained off the liquor (likker?), threw away the old peaches, peeled and cut up the fresh ones and put them in the jars. I then added a couple of teaspoons of sugar to the peaches and let them rest for 10 minutes or so before adding the liquor back to the jars and letting them sit for a few more days. I'm not sure if it was the fresh peaches or using the sugar, but the peach flavor really came through a lot more clearly, and the sugar seemed to cut down on some of the bite from the alcohol. It also took on a more yellowish tint.

In the end, it ended up being pretty good, but it still has a slightly off taste, which I would likely attribute to the canned peaches. I took some to a 4th of July party and we passed around one of the jars, and people seemed to enjoy it as much as one can enjoy drinking straight liquor. I think if I were to do it over again, I would only use fresh peaches, I would use the sugar at the beginning, and I would maybe even use the 80 proof liquor, or possibly cut the finished product with some water. I would perhaps add a little less at the beginning as I could always add more later if needed. If you decide to give this a try yourself, please be sure to share how it turns out for you.

If you are interested in other DIY liquor adventures, check out my old post on making your own gin.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Blog of Note: Seersucker and Sazerac

It might not be surprising, but some of my favorite blogs to read fall into the "Southern lifestyle" blogs. One that I came across a few months ago that I have enjoyed is Seersuckers and Sazeracs. It's run by a guy named Ryan who lives in New Orleans and is great because it provides a perspective from one of the most iconic, but unique, parts of the South. My family lived in Louisiana for about a year, and one of our good friends from college is from the Garden District, so needless to say, I have fond memories of the Crescent City. But perhaps more importantly, can you really think of a better combination than seersucker and Sazeracs? (though I will admit to having had my first Sazerac only a couple of months ago)

While I really enjoyed his post (and accompanying recipe) about étouffée (though I should note that my mom makes a pretty mean crawfish étouffée), I was most impressed with his A-Z guide to the Carnival (a.k.a.- Mardi Gras) where he did a daily post on different aspects of the season, from Antoine's to Zulu. Here is his initial post in the series, so be sure to go read the whole series. Be sure to look for his blog in my blog roll to the right.

You can also follow Ryan on twitter.

Two years, more or less

It was pointed out to me by my college roommate today that I missed what could have been the second "birthday" for my blog. I appreciate those of you who have actually kept sticking with me for the past two years, through the highs and lows of the blog. In case you are a newer reader, I went back and found some of my favorite posts from the first year and a half or so of the blog. Consider it a narcissistic walk down memory lane. If you haven't read them before, you can also pretend that they're new posts.

A whole lotta 80s preppy goodness
The black "dress" shirt
Tor/Sufjan Stevens- "Illinoize"
Pictures from Charleston
Hot women and Land Rovers: A Match Made in Heaven
Brown "tuxedos"
Introducing: the belt koozie
Sperry Billfish: A Footwear Identity Crisis
"Photography" or "A Trip Up North"
"Making the Grade"
Make your own gin: a follow-up
Breaking News: Kings of Leon to compete for "Worst Band of 2009"

Thanks again to everyone who reads. Please keep coming back and I promise to keep doing posts on a least a semi-regular basis.