It’s back. This Cocktail Sunday post leaves the familiar world of whiskey and gin behind and weaves its way over to brandy. Which seems fitting given that this cocktail was designed for one of the wealthiest men in America, Cornelius Vanderbilt.
Vanderbilt wouldn’t have been drinking any cut rate brandy in his cocktail; he would have used VSOP Cognac, and I recommend (following the advice of David Wondrich) that you make the same substitution in any classic cocktail calling for brandy. Life is too short to do otherwise.
The big question in this cocktail appears to be the proportions. The first written recipe I’ve found for it, 1922’s Cocktails and How to Mix Them, calls for 1:1 brandy to cherry liqueur, which seems likely to yield something way too sweet. The Savoy’s Harry Craddock in 1930 dialed it back to a 3:1 ratio, which seems just about right.
One curious note about the name: the 1922 source says it was named for Col. Cornelius Vanderbilt, “who was drowned on the Lusitania during the War.” But the Vanderbilt on the Lusitania was Alfred Vanderbilt, and there was no “Colonel Vanderbilt” alive then. So: poetic license.
It’s grilling season, and for some reason I had extra homemade pickles that wouldn’t fit in the jar. Turns out they’re wonderful with the Vanderbilt. Who’d have guessed?
As always, if you want to try the recipe, here’s the Highball recipe card. Enjoy!
Yesterday I bought and connected a Rega Fono Mini A2D phono pre-amp to my new Marantz amplifier. Setup had me swearing for a minute, until I remembered that setup turned on the input ports depending on what was connected when the receiver was first run, and that I needed to use the onscreen menu to turn on the input I was running the Rega into. Initial listening — a Marian Anderson 45 of spirituals which was unfortunately staticky, the new Beatles Sgt. Pepper remaster — was sublime. Looking forward to getting in some more listening this week.
“But wait,” you might say. “I thought the Marantz had a built in phono preamp. Why did you need an external pre-amp?”
Well, the Marantz does have a built in phono preamp. I’ve even used it, and it sounded fine on cursory listen. What it lacks is a tape monitor out connection. And without any sort of output connector, it’s impossible to use the system to digitize vinyl. Which meant either I needed to get a USB turntable—and I don’t want to part with my Denon DP-45F—or add a pre-amp with a digital out.
And the Rega works just fine for that as well.
But the absence of “monitor out”—the closing of the traditional “analog hole” even in a relatively high end consumer system—has me thinking anew about future-proofing, customer “requirements” vs. unanticipated use cases, and product features that appease other parts of the supply chain to the inconvenience of the customer.
I’ve been working on this one for a while, and today felt like the right day to finish it up. This is an indulgent (over four hours long) tour through at least four different genres, with a common thread of funk.
There’s no particular logic to the sequence except that they’re loosely grouped by genre so as to keep the groove flowing. And the first track might seem odd, but listen to Carleton Coon and Joe Sanders trading scat syllables (in a style that will seem familiar to fans of the Warner Brothers cartoon “Dough for the Do-Do”) and the connection to funk becomes clear.
Roodles – The Coon-Sanders Nighthawks (“Radio’s Aces”)
Calling On My Darling – Albert King (Chess Blues 1960-1967)
Grab This Thing (Part 1) – The Mar-Keys (The Stax Story)
Black Boy – Roebuck ‘Pops’ Staples (The Stax Story)
I Have Learned to Do Without You – Mavis Staples (The Stax Story)
Sissy Walk (Full) (Vocal) – Eddie Bo (The Hook and Sling)
Tighten Up Tighter (Feat. Roosevelt Matthews) – Billy Ball and the Upsetters (The Funky 16 Corners)
Dap Walk – Ernie and The Top Notes Inc (The Funky 16 Corners)
Check Your Bucket (Full) – Eddie Bo (The Hook and Sling)
Sock It To ‘Em Soul Brother – Bill Moss (Eccentric Soul: The Capsoul Label)
Hey Pocky A-Way (A Way) – The Wild Tchoupitoulas (The Wild Tchoupitoulas)
The Meters – Here Comes The Meter Man – DJ Jedi (Blowout Breaks)
The Headhunters – God Made Me Funky – DJ Jedi (Blowout Breaks)
Honky Tonk (Parts 1 & 2) – James Brown (Messing With The Blues)
Outer Spaceways Incorporated – Sun Ra (Space Is The Place (Original Soundtrack))
Umbrellas – Weather Report (Weather Report)
Red China Blues – Miles Davis (Get Up With It)
Harvey Mason – Hop Scotch (1975) – Herbie Hancock (Herbie Hancock – Man With a Suitcase)
Eddie Henderson – Ecstasy (1978) – Herbie Hancock (Herbie Hancock – Man With a Suitcase)
Whitey on the Moon – Gil Scott-Heron (Small Talk At 125th and Lennox)
The Last Poets – Black Is – Chant – DJ Jedi (Blowout Breaks)
Ku Mi Da Hankan – The Elcados (Nigeria Rock Special: Psychedelic Afro-rock & Fuzz Funk In 1)
Everybody Likes Something Good – Ify Jerry Crusade (Nigeria 70 – Lagos Jump)
Live in Another World – Itadi (Afro-Beat Airways)
The Things We Do In Soweto – Almon Memela (Next Stop Soweto 4: Zulu Rock, Afro-Disco & Mbaqanga 1975-19)
Do The Afro Shuffle – Godwin Omabuwa & His Casanova Dandies – Godwin Omabuwa & His Casanova Dandies (Nigeria Afrobeat Special: The New Explosive Sound In 1970�)
It’s been a light blogging month here, as I had to take on some additional responsibilities at work. I’m definitely looking forward to Memorial Day and our customary celebration, which for the past few years has involved barbecue. And not just any barbecue, but the only time each year that I make pulled pork, which this year will be served alongside homemade bread and butter pickles. And pulled chicken. And our quasi-semiannual pilgrimage to Karl’s Sausage Kitchen for grilled bratwurst.
It’s reached the part of my Lego collecting lifetime where I’m starting to upgrade sets that I bought years ago—in some cases at the dawn of my adult Lego life. As I noted a year or so ago, I’m a grown up who still likes Lego, a so-called AFOL, and have now been so for close to 15 years. In that time Lego has dramatically improved their range and building techniques have evolved. So I’ve started replacing sets that I built when they first came out with the latest and greatest.
I’ve been experimenting with ramps lately. For those initiated, ramps are a wild allium (leek/garlic type vegetable) with an unforgettably sharp flavor and aroma. They aren’t cultivated so only appear for a few weeks in the sprint, and this year I noticed that our local farm stand was carrying them (picture above shamelessly ganked from someone’s blog).
So I started looking for things to do with them, and so far my impression is the simpler the better. I started with a variation on this spring green risotto from the New York Times. I didn’t have any spring greens so I substituted some fresh English peas. It was… just OK. The flavor was subdued and, while tasty, the risotto didn’t capture the excitement of the ingredient.
On Sunday I went much, much simpler, tossing ramps (and some bok choy) in olive oil and grilling it over low heat in a basket until I started to get black edges on the greens. This was much, much better — the bulb of the ramp was sweet and the green was smoky with a little bite.
But the best recipe of all may be the family recipe that my uncle makes: fry some streaky lean bacon, fry potatoes in the bacon fat, then add the ramps at the end. Looking forward to trying this weekend if any ramps are left at the stand.
It’s been almost thirteen years since the last time I saw the Pixies live. In that time they’ve released two new albums, toured a whole lot, and replaced Kim Deal — twice. I was thrilled to get tickets to see them at the House of Blues — I mean, the last time I was there it was the Avalon, and it’s been the HoB since 2009. With so much time passing, I wondered what I’d see from the floor.
First, let’s acknowledge that the opening act, Cymbals Eat Guitars, is no Mission of Burma. But it’s no Bennies either (though Jeremy Dubs’ band did rock). Cymbals did a perfectly respectable set that wandered around …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead territory for a while and had me feeling pretty psychedelic by the end. We waited for a while while they set up the next band, and my friends Chris and Fred got into a conversation with the girls behind us. “You can’t possibly have been alive when the Pixies released their first albums. When were you born?” “1989.” Between that and the lengthy drunken monologue from one of the women, things were looking a little sketchy.
And then the band showed up. So how were they? In a word, tight.
Time was that I could have remembered the setlist, song by song. Thank goodness someone else has done that for me. All I can say is: 36 songs (35 if you subtract the false start of “Wave of Mutilation”). The opening, “Ana,” has been one of my favorites since I picked up Bossanova in my first year of college, but wasn’t in the setlist at the Tsongas Arena in 2004.
And when “Head On” started I was transported. Totally in another place.
For every use of Facebook that is lamentable or just plain awful, there’s something like the Newport News group that I’m a member of. Filled with people whose memories of the Peninsula predate mine, it’s regularly full of surprises. None so big, though, as the pointer to a discussion forum on a Newport News High School site about World War II POW camps in my home town.
I think I had been vaguely aware that some prisoners of war had been housed in Newport News, particularly at Camp Patrick Henry (in my childhood Patrick Henry Airport, today known as Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport or “New Willie”). But I wasn’t aware of the scope: over 134,000 German and Italian POWs were housed in the camps at Camp Patrick Henry, Fort Eustis, a POW camp near the Port of Embarkation, Camp Hill, and other locations. According to one article, a major purpose of the camps was the “re-education” of former Nazis who were drafted into the German army unwillingly.
To my surprise, I also learned that there were enemy alien interment camps (like the ones in California that held a young George Takei) in New Market, Staunton, and Bath; these held German, Italian and Japanese natives.
History isn’t distant; sometimes it’s right where you’ve been all along.
It was a busy weekend, the kind that began with a clean and purge of the basement (four more boxes unpacked! more floor space opened up!) and ended with a trip to IKEA to build a desk for The Boy. The Girl spent most of the weekend with Lisa working on cleaning out her room and bagging up enormous amounts of trash, books to donate, and so on.
I said in passing to someone that they were “redding up” and I got a look of utter confusion. It occurred to me that the use of “redd” as a verb is not one that I hear much outside of my Lancaster County relatives, so I went hunting.
I’ve been in my old home grounds this week for a conference, and ended up with some spare time and in the Glover Park neighborhood. So on Monday I walked up the hill to Washington National Cathedral, just in time to join in the first half of the Cathedral Choral Society‘s rehearsal.
I was amazed at the number of familiar faces that I recognized, and who recognized me. I was astonished at how familiar everything was, to the extent of pushing the same talk button to enter the handicapped door for rehearsal and the chairs that everyone sat in—and how different it was. The passing of Reilly Lewis has left a hole in the organization that they are still working to fill.
And for me, having just passed through the conductor revolving door as the Tanglewood Festival Chorus sought to replace its founding conductor John Oliver, it felt very familiar—the uncertainty of the future direction of the group, the dislocation with each new guest conductor, the determination to make music despite all the ambiguity of the future and the organizational distractions. I look forward especially to hearing the Nico Muhly commission, “Looking Up,” that I rehearsed with the group and that was one of Reilly’s last programming choices.
I saw Branford live for the first time with Sting, on January 29, 1988, and with his band in 1989 (if my notes are correct). Because of Branford, I started listening to jazz in earnest, first finding John Coltrane, then Miles Davis, Monk, and others. Last Friday I finally got to hear him live again.
What struck me about the performance by the Branford Marsalis Quartet with Kurt Elling was the high level of talent in all the musicians on stage, and the high level of generosity from the leader. Joey Calderazzo in particular stood out for his range, going from high volume warfare with Justin Faulkner to atmospheric washes generated by plucking the strings of the piano to some moments of Bill Evans/Erik Satié inspired playing. Faulkner himself was a force of nature, dropping bombs left and right over the stage and performing incredibly complex fills. And Eric Revis was a solid pivot who proved in the encore of “St. James Infirmary” that he could play a solo of high complexity and sensitivity. Branford himself blew my socks off in a few moments, but mostly stood out for how well he accompanied Elling.
Elling is an astonishing vocalist who was not on my radar before his collaboration with this quartet, but whose other work I’ll be seeking out.
Meanwhile, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus told ABC on Sunday that the president is thinking about amending or even abolishing the First Amendment to stifle what they consider to be unfair media criticism. When asked by Jonathan Karl whether they had considered a constitutional amendment so that the president can sue his critics, Priebus responded: “I think it’s something that we’ve looked at. How that gets executed or whether that goes anywhere is a different story.”
Never mind that the White House will stumble around figuring out how to amend the Constitution because none of them paid attention in civics class. Eventually they’ll figure it out.
And then we should impeach whoever moves that idea forward. Because that’s a long way from preserving, protecting, and defending the basic framework of our democracy.
This weekend’s March for Science felt familiar, but not because of its similarity to the Women’s March. A lot of the placards felt like S. Harris cartoons.
Sidney Harris, who generally signs his cartoons with his first initial, is one of those guys I read religiously when I was in physics and then subsequently forgot about. But there’s a real resonance in his cartoons about climate change.