The Restorative Vieux Carré via Mario Batali

Vieux Carré with Armagnac and Few Rye

Vieux Carré with Armagnac and Few Rye

I don’t know much about the chef Mario Batali. I saw him interviewed on a Daily Show with Jon Stewart  a while back, I know he’s opening a place in River North called Eataly, I recall he was victorious in a Twitter war with some anti-abortion zealots protesting his donation to a Texas fundraiser, and I know he likes orange crocs. However, I have been reading, and enjoying, his weekly cocktail suggestions in the New York Times Magazine, such as his version of one of my favorite ways to drink cognac (or related liquors).

Mr. Batali wrote:

Last month, I was invigorated by an 11 a.m. restorative Vieux Carré at the Carousel Bar in New Orleans. Fill a shaker with ice and add a dash each of Benedictine, Peychaud’s and Angostura bitters and a shot each of rye whiskey, cognac and Punt e Mes. Shake, then strain into a glass filled with fresh ice and garnish with an Amarena cherry — then let the late-morning voodoo do its work.

(click here to continue reading Hungry, Hungry Voters –

I’ve never had Punt e Mes, nor do I have Amarena cherries, so here was my version – for the afternoon, 11 A.M. is a little early for me.

  • spoonful of Bénédictine D.O.M.
  • 2 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • equal parts of Few Rye Whiskey, Marie Duffau Napoleon Bas Armagnac (You could use Cognac, or any good brandy, your choice) and sweet vermouth (Dolin Vermouth de Chambéry Rouge).

Stir vigorously over ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish with a lemon twist – making sure to get a good bit of lemon on the glass edge.

Imbibe. Try to have only one. I had two.

Vieux Carré Cocktail

Earlier today…

This drink was invented in 1938 by Walter Bergeron, the head bartender at the Monteleone Hotel in New Orleans, and is named after the French term for what we call “The French Quarter” … le Vieux Carré (“Old Square”).
The Monteleone is one of the Quarter’s grand old hotels, and now features the marvelous Carousel Lounge, which is an actual revolving carousel — you sit, and it revolves around the bartenders (just slowly enough so that you only get dizzy from drinks, not the ride).

1 ounce rye whiskey
1 ounce Cognac
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1 teaspoon Bénédictine D.O.M.
2 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
2 dashes Angostura Bitters

Vieux Carré Cocktail

Sazerac Cocktail

Sazerac Cocktail

Sazerac Cocktail

Here’s how I made this.

  1. Ran cold water over a martini glass and put it in the freezer.
  2. Took an ice cube out of the freezer. I use ginormous ice cubes, in general, so they make drinks cold quicker, without diluting the spirits. You might need to use three normal ice cubes instead.
  3. Spoonful of sugar1 placed in tall glass.
  4. Add Peychaud’s Bitters2, and mash with a muddler. Toss in a few ounces of Rye Whiskey, and continue muddling. Add ice cube, and stir vigorously.
  5. Take martini glass out of the freezer, and add a drop of Absinthe to it. Swirl the Absinthe around the glass, and discard the rest.
  6. Decant the whiskey mixture into the martini glass.
  7. Slice a bit of lemon skin, express the juice of it on the edge of the glass, and drop it in the mixture.
  8. Drink, enjoy.

If I made this again, I would serve it in an old fashioned glass with ice – this would help dilute the whiskey a bit more. As it was, the whiskey had a bit of a bite still. Quite delicious, especially if you have a taste for rye whiskey.

  1. I couldn’t find my sugar cubes, so estimated []
  2. about 5 dashes, adjust for taste []

Sampling Sazeracs

Absinthe Sazerac
Absinthe Sazerac – America’s First Cocktail

I had a first attempt at making a Sazerac at home the other day, but wasn’t quite satisfied: perhaps I used too much Absinthe. Will try again as soon as I am able…

This variant ran in the NYT in 2009


  • 1/4 ounce (1 1/2 teaspoons) Herbsaint, absinthe or pastis
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
  • 2 ounces (1/4 cup) good rye whiskey
  • 1 lemon, unwaxed and scrubbed.

1. Place a short rocks glass in the freezer to chill.

2. Add the Herbsaint to the chilled glass, swirl it around to give the inside of the glass a thin coating, then discard the excess.

3. Place the sugar in the bottom of a mixing glass with a few drops of water. With a wooden spoon or cocktail muddler, muddle down the sugar, add the bitters and keep muddling. Add the whiskey and stir well, until the sugar is dissolved. Add enough ice to fill the mixing glass three-quarters full and stir for about 20 seconds.

4. Strain into the coated glass and, using a vegetable peeler or sharp knife, slice off a piece of lemon peel. Squeeze the peel’s oils over the drink and either discard the peel or drop it in the drink.

Adapted from “Artisanal Cocktails” by Scott Beattie.

(click here to continue reading Tales of a Cocktail | Sampling Sazeracs in New Orleans –


Hail, Hail Professor Longhair

Loves me some Professor Longhair, and for that matter, vintage Atlantic Records R&B. Such good sides. Highly recommended.

“Atlantic Rhythm & Blues 1: 1947-52” (Various Artists)


Walk around the streets near my home in east London and the area’s past will soon rise up to meet you – carved above door-frames, etched into glass and painted on awnings and the sides of buildings are the ghost-signs of former industries: shop-fronts and faded adverts for Blooms Pianos and Gillette Razors; fountain pens, glass, stoves and whisky; Strongs Meat and Donovan Brothers’ Paper Bags.

This was once an area famed for furniture and shoemakers, matches and model-makers, but as the industry moved elsewhere many of the names drifted into obscurity, too: Lesney, Bailey & Sloper, Bespoke Shoes, Berger, Jenson & Nicholson, Batey & Co, F Puckeridge & Nephew. As the area reinvents itself with luxury flats and new train lines, galleries and delicatessens, the few names that remain serve as faded, barely noticed reminders of the vibrant history of this part of the city.

I was thinking about these ghost signs and all those lost names this last week as I listened to Atlantic Rhythm and Blues, Volume One. This is a collection of 25 songs released between 1947 and 1952 in the first five years of the label’s existence. It ranges from relatively well-known artists – including Big Joe Turner and Ruth Brown – to obscure acts such as Stick McGhee, who pops up playing his only hit, Drinkin’ Wine (Spo-Dee-O-Dee).

(click to continue reading Hail, Hail, Rock’n’Roll | Laura Barton | Music | The Guardian.)

And ‘Fess…

“Fess: Anthology” (Professor Longhair)

Likewise Professor Longhair, who appears here playing two of his biggest songs, Hey Little Girl and Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Born Ray Byrd in Louisiana, Professor Longhair was a blues pianist and singer who settled in New Orleans and whose music has proved something of a linchpin of the city: a rolling, rumbling thing, with a rumba lilt, a certain Caribbeanness, and a croaky, lurching gait. You’d recognise it, surely – the dishevelled, tanked-up plea of Hey Little Girl is played often enough. Mardi Gras in New Orleans, meanwhile, has one of the most persuasive whistled intros in musical history.

This was a man who tap-danced for money along Bourbon Street, who was a card-shark and a gambler and a hustler, a one-time wannabe-boxer; a man who tried to scratch a living as a cook and a dancer and a seller of a miracle cure-all named Hadacol. You can hear it all in his music of course – a need and a desperation and a desire for more. But also a charm and a seduction and something winningly ramshackle.

There was some commercial success, for a while, but not much. Longhair’s musical offspring have been plentiful, though: you can’t listen to Fats Domino or Dr John, Allen Toussaint or Huey Smith without hearing his influence. Nor Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley or Lennon and McCartney. After a period of obscurity in the 1960s, when he worked as a janitor and fell back into gambling, Longhair enjoyed a burst of success in the last decade or so of his life with tours and a new album deal and dues paid by Robbie Robertson and Robert Plant. After his death, on the eve of the release of a new record, he was awarded a posthumous Grammy and inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

From a Whisper to a Scream

“From a Whisper to a Scream” (Allen Toussaint)

Seriously good – pick up a copy if you don’t already have one

Kent Soul has done an exceptional job in remastering and reissuing Allen Toussaint’s classic sophomore long-player — which was known simply as Allen Toussaint — and the “bonus” selection, a vocal-less blues-meets-funk titled “Number Nine.” When these songs first surfaced circa 1970, Toussaint (piano/vocals) had become a decade-long veteran of the New Orleans’ Crescent City soul movement. Under his own name as well as the pseudonym of Naomi Neville, he was a composer, producer, and even a recording session musician. He left a trail of influential R&B titles that would resound back across the pond in the form of cover versions by the likes of the Rolling Stones (“Pain in My Heart”), the Yardbirds (“A Certain Girl”), and the Who (“Fortune Teller”), along with countless others. Toussaint’s uncanny musical malleability resulted in a diverse yet solid second solo outing.

He is supported by Mac Rebennack (organ/guitar) (aka Dr. John), Terry Kellman (guitar), Eddie Hohner (bass), Freddie Staehle (drums), John Boudreaux (drums), Clyde Kerr (trumpet), Earl Turbinton (alto sax), and none other than Merry Clayton (backing vocals) and Venetta Fields — perhaps the most in demand studio voices of the rock & roll era. The dramatic “From a Whisper to a Scream” perfectly captures the synergy existing between Toussaint’s ultra cool delivery and the understated yet piercing lyrical indictment. Other highlights include the pop-oriented, upbeat, and classy “Sweet Touch of Love,” the author’s interpretation of “Everything I Do Gonh Be Funky” and “Working in the Coalmine.”

(click to continue reading From a Whisper to a Scream > Overview.)

Everyone should have a few Allen Toussaint albums around, worn from repeated playing1

  1. even though CDs theoretically don’t have this problem the way a vinyl record does, CDs still get worn, scratched and discolored from repeated handling []

Reading Around on December 14th through December 15th

A few interesting links collected December 14th through December 15th:

  • Zillow starts charging for listings | 1000Watt Consulting – Starting tomorrow Zillow will be charging for all manual listing uploads to their site. This, as they also add rental properties to their site as well…photo by swanksalot
  • Beer Money at the MCA

  • Should We Launch a War on Immigration? – Harry Shearer – What’s striking is that none of these governments acknowledges, in these long-running, rancorous debates, that the issue is anything other than a particular, localized one, and, further, that none of these governments seems to have discovered and implemented a solution–a quota, a points system, an electric border fence–that works, that can be adapted or shared by its brethren. In this, the immigration problem resembles nothing so much as the drug problem.

    What we need, obviously, is a War on Immigration.

    Photo Credit: Flickr User swanksalot

  • immigration rally6

  • Jane Fulton Alt’s “After The Storm” – Chicagoist – Like the rest of America, Chicago photographer Jane Fulton Alt watched the events, the destruction, and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina on television. But unlike many people, she found herself in a position to do something. Within weeks of Katrina’s landfall, Jane found herself in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward, the hardest hit part of the city, block after block wiped out by flood waters as the levees gave way. Jane was part of a program run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that assisted residents in returning briefly to their homes to see what they could find but who also had to immediately turn around and leave. And in this time in New Orleans – as well as several subsequent visits – Jane found herself taking photos of the destruction.

Reading Around on December 6th through December 7th

A few interesting links collected December 6th through December 7th:

  • “Do I have the right to refuse this search?” | Homeland Security Watch – TSA Terrorism Theater is a Joke, and not the 911 kind1 “Within the last few months, I have been singled out for “additional screening” roughly half the time I step into an airport security line. On Friday, October 9, as I stepped out of the full-body scanning device at BWI, I decided I needed more information to identify why it is that I have become such an appealing candidate for secondary screening.

    Little did I know this would be only the first of many questions I now have regarding my airport experiences.

    Over these last few months, I have grown increasingly frustrated with what I view as an unjustifiable intrusion on my privacy. It was not so much the search (then) as it was the embarrassment of being singled out, effectively being told “You are different,” but getting no explanation as to why.”

  • Mark the Spot: Tell AT&T where the iPhone sucks – Well now there is an electronic version of that crosswalk button for me to push whenever my signal degrades. This app, free in the App Store lets you pinpoint your location when the call was dropped. Expect a good constellation of points around my house
  • Oxford American – The Southern Magazine of Good Writing :: Ode to a Pecan Pie – The pecan pie has been on the Brigtsen’s menu for all twenty-three years of the restaurant’s history. It is evidence of Brigtsen’s broader philosophy.

    “I wanted it to be just that: a classic Southern dessert. I am not out to change the world with my food. I am not out to reinvent the wheel. I’m only here to make people happy. And whatever it takes to do that is my goal. I also believe that just because something is one hundred years old or twenty-three years old doesn’t mean it isn’t good anymore.”

  1. or the 9/11 kind []

Reading Around on September 18th through September 21st

A few interesting links collected September 18th through September 21st:

  • Back Issues : The New Yorker

    “Today we launch Back Issues, formerly a department in our News Desk blog, as its own blog on In the coming weeks and months, we’ll use this space to delve through more than eighty years of New Yorker history, with an eye to relating that history to the happenings of the day. Our chief goal will be to make this vast resource approachable and useful to our readers.”

    maybe its just my inner historian, but I love looking at news coverage from years before I was born

    Melrose Park Speakeasy.jpg

  • Chicagoans for Rio 2016 – It would be exciting to host the Olympics here in Chicago. But you know what would be even better? Rio De Janeiro. Just let Rio host the 2016 Olympics. We don’t mind. Honest.
  • In defense of ACORN | Salon

    To claim that the stupid behavior of a half-dozen employees should discredit a national group with offices in more than 75 cities staffed by many thousands of employees and volunteers is like saying that Mark Sanford or John Ensign have discredited every Republican governor or senator. Indeed, the indignation of the congressional Republicans screaming about ACORN and the phony streetwalker is diluted by the presence of at least two confirmed prostitution clients — Rep. Ken Calvert and Sen. David Vitter — in their midst. Neither of those right-wing johns has been even mildly chastised by their moralistic peers. Nobody is cutting off their federal funding.


  • suburban romps.jpg
  • A Significant Bullet – From the press kit for Herzog’s new film Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans: “I call upon the theoreticians of cinema to go after this one. Go for it, losers.”

Museum of American Cocktail

Cocktail Hour can strike at any time

Sounds fun, I want to go there, soon.

the Museum of the American Cocktail opening this month will focus on the rich history of sophisticated drinks that have been served since Thomas Jefferson was president 200 years ago.

Cocktails – originally defined as any mixture of bitters, spirits and sugar – were an early fixture in this French port city. Besides easy access to sugar, a European sensibility allowed a drinking culture to flourish when it foundered elsewhere in the south’s Bible Belt.

“I definitely think New Orleans has always been the home of civilised1 drinking,” said Ann Tuennerman, founder of Tales of the Cocktail, an annual festival that attracts thousands.

“The image the tourists have is not how most locals think of drinking. We believe in better, not more.”

The museum is located near the city’s French Quarter and features a collection of rare spirits, books, and Prohibition-era literature. There will be vintage cocktail shakers, glassware, tools, gadgets and other cocktail memorabilia.

[From From martinis to Manhattans, US museum pays homage to mixed drinks | World news |]

I have not been to New Orleans since Katrina, except in spirit, but a journey to celebrate spirits sounds like a festive spritzer. Errr, whatever.

  1. British spelling, from a British paper, we aren’t correcting it []

Yats Cajun Creole

Was walking east on Randolph, and glanced at a soon-to open restaurant called Yats Cajun Creole. The owner, Joe Vuskovich, a gregarious fellow, recently of New Orleans, came out and chatted for a minute or two. He said the restaurant will be be opening mid-July, or early August, if all goes as planned. I forgot to get a photo of Joe, but I did snap a shot of the storefront (forgive the poor exposure).

Joe mentioned he used to work in a factory over on Fulton1, so it was a homecoming of sorts for him. Also, his dad had been an oyster farmer, so the smells and sounds2 of Fulton Market brought back fond memories.

I am a great lover of all things New Orleans (mostly the music, but the food too), so am eager to have my first meal at Yats Cajun Creole.

Yats Cajun Creole

update, now open!

  1. from his webpage: Most recently, Joe has owned and operated a wholesale business, (a) blending, grinding, packaging, and selling spices to the restaurant trade, as well as (b) offering his spicy native cuisine to restaurants in a pre-prepared fashion. After a few big clients went out of business about two years ago, Joe decided to launch a no-frills, back-to-the-basics, neighborhood restaurant. Thus, Yats was reborn. []
  2. diesel, and food, and other less pleasant items too. I grew up on the edge of Toronto’s Chinatown, and we had a poultry market several buildings down the street, sharing an alley with us, so I know of what Joe is referring. Smells are such powerful unlockers of the dusty corridors of memory. []

Dr John Chile-eating champion

“City That Care Forgot” (Dr. John and the Lower 911)

Village Voice columnist Robert Sietsema once had an eye-ball eating contest with Dr. John in New York. He lost.

So, when I heard that the dapper New Orleans musician and composer once known as the Night Tripper was back in town chilling prior to the June 3 release of his new album, The City That Care Forgot, I asked a mutual friend to call and arrange a rematch.

He’d eaten a surfeit of eyes in the interim, so we decided to switch the contest to chile peppers. And the venue would be the spiciest restaurant I could think of: Grand Sichuan House in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. I knew from several previous visits that the fearsome pepper onslaught would include dried red chilies, scarlet-chile oil, fresh green chilies, and—most formidable of all—Sichuan peppercorns, the berries of a shrub that induce a scary metallic numbness in the mouth, like a Novocain overdose. I secretly hoped the peppercorns would throw my adversary off a bit and give me the advantage.

The restaurant’s awning glowed yellow as we pulled up in Scooter’s blue Honda just as the sun was setting. As usual, Dr. John looked every bit the boulevardier in a trim black beret, leather coat, striped tunic, and carved African cane dangling gris-gris, the talismans of voodoo magic. The joint was nearly empty, but the staff was welcoming and cheery. Picking up the menu, I plotted the sequence of dishes so that the food would get hotter and hotter as the meal progressed.

[From village voice > Counter Culture: Dr. John and Our Critic Embark on a Chile-Pepper Eating Contest by Robert Sietsema ]

If you didn’t click the above link for the rest of the story (which includes details of all the spicy dishes consumed at Grand Sichuan House), I’ll tell you who won, Dr. John. New Orleans cuisine has a lot of spicy elements, Dr. John must have a tongue of steel. I like a bit of heat in my food as well, but don’t think I could keep up with the Night Tripper either.

Balcony Life HDR

The album, The City That Care Forgot, looks good, btw, but I’m a big fan:

Eric Clapton, Willie Nelson, Ani Difranco and Terence Blanchard join Dr. John and the Lower 911 in this musical paean to Dr. John’s beloved New Orleans. This powerful new recording features stirring and thought-provoking songs about the post-Katrina crises in the ravaged jewel of the American South, including “City That Care Forgot,” “Time for a Change,” “Promises, Promises,” “We Gettin’ There” and many more.