Monday, September 28, 2009

Speaking of Don Draper...

Here is a lesson on how to make Don's drink of choice, the Old Fashioned (in case you didn't already know how). It is done by Chris McMillan from the Library Lounge at the Ritz-Carlton in New Orleans.

The whole New Orleans' Best Cocktails series is pretty awesome. Be sure to check out the video on making a Mint Julep; it is a Youtube classic.

Eddie Bauer Multi-Purpose Upland Field Coat

OK, so when was the last time that anyone actually bought something from Eddie Bauer? My impression of Eddie Bauer is that of a store that has completely faded from a real outdoors heritage into the mediocre blandness of the suburban American mall. They sell boring, non-descript clothes to boring, non-descript Baby Boomers (maybe this explains why they filed for Chapter 11 back in June...). So I don't remember why I even went to their website the other day, but I did, and I started poking around. I came across their "Heritage Collection" and, surprisingly, there were a couple of decent looking items.

One thing that really caught my eye is their Multi-Purpose Upland Field Coat. Now, already owning three Barbour jackets, it's pretty obvious that I am a sucker for field coats. But this one did seem to have some cool features. The recoil pads, the bi-swing back, the "Gun Carry Forearm Abrasion Patch," and the choke tube pocket (though, how often does one really change choke tubes on the fly?). Plus, it just looks good. At $399, though, the price seems pretty steep to me. You can buy about any Barbour jacket for that price, and I think I would personally have a hard time picking a jacket from Eddie Bauer over a Barbour. It does look like a good move for Eddie Bauer though, so maybe it is the start of a move in a new direction.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Don Draper's Guide to Picking Up Women

I've been watching a lot of Mad Men lately, and this clip has probably been around a while, but that doesn't make it any less awesome, or pertinent.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Blog of note: Unabashedly Prep

The author of Unabashedly Prep, himself (apparently)

OK, so I have made a pretty conscious effort to not really add any blogs to my blog roll that include the words "prep" or "preppy" in them. There are a million of these blogs out there that label themselves as the "Preppy _____," and while I am tempted to name some specifically, that wouldn't be in good taste. Anyways, while I do occasionally used "the p-word" on this blog from time-to-time, I find most of the "preppy" blogs really either stretch it when it comes to incorporating the "preppy" theme, or really way over-do it.

When I first saw the blog Unabashedly Prep a few weeks back, my first impression was that this guy fell into the latter category. However, after giving it a second look, I think that he really does a quality job, there is some nice stuff to look at there, and his stuff about Sid Mashburn is really great. Thanks to him, I'm going to have to make a trip down there (though I may wait until I actually have some money...). Anyways, I'd recommend checking it out, and will be adding his blog to my blog roll.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Belted: Emblematic belts

I love belts, probably much more than most people. I think that they are a nice, yet subtle way of adding a little something extra to what might be considered a boring outfit. And I have a lot of belts, probably too many. My favorite type, however, are probably emblematic belts. These are usually made of canvas with a ribbon of some repeating pattern sewn in, and have a leather tab and buckle. At some point, I decided that when I go out of town, especially to a place I have never been before, I would try to buy a belt from that place as a souvenir. Here is my collection:

Purchased one summer a few years ago on a trip down to St. Simon's Island. This is where I grew up going to the beach.

Purchased from Perlis when I went to visit my college friend who lives in New Orleans. The only drawback is that the ribbon part is not as wide a most emblematics traditionally are. As a result, I feel that the canvas-to-ribbon ratio is off.

Purchased from O'Connell's in Buffalo, NY (a.k.a.- "Mecca") when I went to visit my friend one winter.

Both purchased at J. Press in Boston, during a family trip up to New England. Made by Leather Man, Ltd. The lacrosse belt probably gets the most wear out of all of them.

Purchased from Murray's Toggery Shop on a day-trip to Nantucket during the same trip to New England mentioned above.

Belts purchased so that I would actually have something orange to wear to Clemson games during grad school. The bottom one was "custom made" for me by Leather Man, Ltd. before I actually got to school (little did I know how easy it was to find this style all over town).

Purchased at M. Dumas when I lived in Charleston last summer.

I have a couple more in the closet that I didn't include because they weren't technically "souvenir" belts. Out of all of these, I must say that the ones made by Leather Man, Ltd. are probably the ones I like the most. That is because for the tab, they only use a single piece of leather, instead of two pieces stitched together like most of the rest do. For whatever reason, I think this style works better and lays flatter. Additionally, I think that they are well made, and their website gives you the ability to really customize your order, which I think is great.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Make your own gin: a follow-up

The ingredients have been gathered

Earlier this year I came across a couple of websites that talked about how easy it is to make your own gin at home by infusing cheap vodka with select botanicals. This intrigued me, and I even wrote a blog post about it. Well, it wasn't until a couple of months ago that I actually took a shot at it and just now that I finally wrote about it. Below is a recount of my experience.

I based my technique and recipe off of a combination of the information found on this website and this website (though mostly on the first one). I made trips to several stores to buy whole spices, including a local Indian market. I bought juniper (of course), black cardamom pods, bay leaves, black peppercorns, dried lemon peel, dried orange peel, fennel, coriander, and cinnamon bark (the good kind). Surprisingly, the hardest ingredient to find was juniper berries, but I finally managed to track them down at (where else?) Whole Foods. I also picked up a grapefruit to use some of the rind, a cucumber to put in one jar, and picked some rosemary from the backyard.

Anyways, after getting the botanicals, I picked up some hooch at the liquor store in the form of the cheapest handle of 100 proof vodka they had, and some 80 proof to use to dilute the final product. Having a plethora of mason jars, I decided to make four different batches and divided the 1.5L of vodka evenly among these jars. To create my recipes, and to emphasize that I am a nerd, I input the original recipes from the above websites into an Excel spreadsheet, then scaled them down to my smaller batches, and then created two of my own recipes (if you are also a nerd and would like a copy of my spreadsheet, email me and I will send it to you). As I mentioned above, one of my custom recipes featured some grapefruit zest and was "heavy" on the dried lemon and orange peel, while another one featured fresh cucumber and rosemary. I used my mortar and pestle to break up some of the whole spices for each recipe, put them in the jars, added the vodka and after giving them each a shake, put them in the pantry.

The four batches right after their assembly

The site I primarily based my recipe on suggested leaving them for a month or so. I would give them each a shake and a visual and olfactory inspection once or twice every day, but really didn't see much point in letting them sit for much longer than a week. So I strained each one through some cheese cloth, and came out with four jars of amber-colored liquid that smelled like they would make decent colognes. At the suggestion of one of the websites, I ran two batches through a Brita pitcher to, as the website seemed to promise, take them from their golden hue to the clear appearance that we all know and love. Well, this is where things stopped working out. I ran one of the batches through the Brita at least 12 or 15 times, possibly more. This stuff simply was not coming out clear. I guess that the oils from the botanicals mixed with the alcohol somehow and there appears to be no way to get it clear, save for distilling it (which I am not going to do). So I gave up, and finally just mixed it with the 40 proof vodka and called it a day.

The four batches after a week of soaking

This is how they came out after being strained (but before the Brita)

So how did it come out? Um, well, not terribly, which is good. I could definitely taste some differences in the two batches that I made, and could almost even taste the grapefruit from the rind that I added. Both were certainly drinkable. However, I think that since we eat and drink with our eyes first, it is difficult to get around the odd color of the gin, though it does mellow out a good bit when added to tonic water. Also, not being a gin connoisseur, I found it somewhat difficult to compare these side-by-side in an attempt to pick up on the subtle ways that this amount of fennel might have been better than this amount of cardamom, etc. I really just drank them with some tonic water. In conclusion: not bad, but I wasn't blown away either.

I believe this was #3, the one with the grapefruit peel, after being filtered through the Brita and diluted with 40 proof vodka

If that was #3, this is #4, the one with the cucumber and rosemary

So is this something you should do? Maybe. If you really like gin, and know what particular flavors you really like and really don't like, this may be a good way to go to try to craft your "perfect" or "signature" blend. It might be fun for Christmas or birthday gifts if you have friends that really like gin. Once you buy the botanicals, it is really a pretty cheap operation as you will, no doubt, have enough spices to make many, many batches. However, until someone can tell me definitively how to get rid of the yellow hue in the final product, I don't think I will be attempting this again any time soon.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Iphone app: I Am T-Pain

A couple of months ago we renewed our contract with AT&T and I had the option to get an Iphone. However, I had been using a Blackberry for the previous two years and ended up getting one again (the 8900). I absolutely love it. Job hunting would be infinitely more difficult without it. I have never once regretted getting the Blackberry over the Iphone. Until today.

This morning I came across a new app called I Am T-Pain which is basically an Auto-Tune app for your Iphone. Just download it (only $3!), plug your Iphone into some headphones or speakers, put on your favorite T-Pain song (including one of the six or seven free songs that come with the app), and sing into the phone's microphone. Your voice comes out sounding like T-Pain's! It is even customizable where you can alter which key it adjusts your voice to.

I downloaded it onto my brother's Iphone and can attest that it is indeed pretty awesome and a lot of fun. I'm hoping that more songs will be released for it, like "Blame It" by Jaime Foxx and T-Pain, or maybe even "I'm On A Boat" (though that song is a bit past its prime).

Friday, September 4, 2009

Southern Staple: White bucs

While I have had this post in mind for a while, I haven't gotten around to it, but wanted to get it in before Labor Day, the official end of White Buc(k) season.

The white buc has been around for the better part of a century and has quite a storied past, particularly in the South. It is even featured in the Official Preppy Handbook (and if that isn't a good pedigree, I don't know what is). The shoe, however, seems to have waned in popularity in recent decades, especially compared to its tan cousin. Perhaps it is the the fact that they stand out so much, or perhaps because the fastidious have a hard time keeping them perfectly clean (as you can see from mine, this is not something I lose any sleep over). Even in the South, they are a fairly rare sight. I would have even expected a bit of a rise in popularity given the endorsement from this article in the New York Times this summer, but I have seen little effect.

The white buc is most commonly worn with a seersucker suit or trousers, but I think that paired with plain khakis, the shoe really shines. The khakis tone down the whole look and may make the wearer feel less like the ice cream man, though for a true southern gentleman, this has never really been a problem. I think it also works well with khakis shorts, sans socks, of course.

Speaking of socks, this is the only area where I have had difficulty with this shoe. I feel like I always have a hard time figuring out what socks to wear with them, especially when wearing my seersucker suit. I typically reach for navy, though sometimes I feel the contrast is too harsh. I have a pair of light yellow socks that I sometimes wear, but I still feel those aren't quite right. Typically I end up going sockless, as the hair on my ankles seems to be the best match for this summertime staple.

The pair that I own were a house brand purchased at Mobley & Sons in Birmingham (my favorite mens store in the city) a couple of years ago. They were around $150 and made in Brazil, but are very comfortable and have held up well. Now that summer is ending, you may be able to find them on sale pretty soon, and I suggest picking up a pair to wear next spring.

Mixology: Summer Beer

This past Wednesday night I attended a community group cookout from the church I've been going to this summer and it was there that I first tried this delicious beverage (hey, we're Presbyterian, what can I say?). Its maker, Ruthanne, was kind enough to provide me with the recipe so that I might provide it to you, dear reader, so be sure to get check out her blog. So, without future ado, from her email:
here's the recipe for the summer beer. this makes 2 quarts

48 oz (1.4 L) light beer (i've found corona or landshark type beers work best)
1.5 pints (750 ml) of vodka (no need to buy the pricey brands)
3 cans of frozen limeade concentrate (i get the store brand of this - cheaper and tastes exactly the same)

Combine in a pitcher and chill before serving. Can be served over ice. i've also served this from the freezer and it had a slushy consistancy which was quite good also.

I really can't get over how good this drink was. The limeade adds sweetness and tang, the beer adds some fizz and keeps the sweetness in check, and the vodka just adds trouble. I suggest whipping up a batch for your Labor Day activities this weekend and celebrating the end of summer with a toast.