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Journal of No. 118


May 15th, 2011

Of Cocktails and the Crucible @ 01:21 pm


Friday night was the celebration of aaronjv's 40th with a bar crawl. Smaug deserves many thanks for acting as driver of the party-van. My memories are somewhat old and necessarily hazy, but such is what I recall...

We started off at Cole's, where Max was his usual impressario self behind the bar. I had the daily house special Manhattan, which was based on something polysyllabic, perhaps Rittenhouse. It was smooth and tasty, and a really great way to start the evening with fresh tastebuds. The Luxardo cherry really makes for a fantastic prize at the end with that last gulp. Max had promised Aaron a Ramos Gin Fizz as a special treat for his birthday. The RGF traditionally requires 12 minutes of shaking, to allow the egg white to really set up into a creamy foam. I don't know if we hit that mark, but the shaker was passed around our party from person to person. I had gotten my drink early, so I was able to beg off -- "careful man, there's a beverage here" -- but I provided valuable moral support. The end result was a really miraculous texture -- an airy smooth small-celled foam. And I enjoyed the citrusy taste of it. Max was slightly mortified to discover he'd forgotten to add the cream, but whipped up a replacement. I sincerely preferred the creamless version -- and I think I was not alone in that judgment -- so maybe a new local variation has been invented. We were sharing about generally, and I think I had a taste of a Moscow Mule.

We placed orders for takeaway French dips, and sauntered through into The Varnish, one of my favorite places. I played dealer's choice and asked for something with Campari that wasn't the usual Negroni or Americano. I forget what the barmaid told me it was, which is unfortunate, since she went to great pains to remember, but I believe it was gin, campari and lemon juice, garnished with grapes. It was fantastic, and seemed to be a big hit with colleenky as well.

Although it may have saved time, I didn't much enjoy wolfing down a cooling french dip in the back of a moving van. Not least because I was deprived of Cole's house horseradish mustard. But it was good and provided necessary ballast as we pulled in at Caña, a private rum bar in the Petroleum Building (built in 1924 as the HQ for Doheny's oil empire). Aaron's street cred got us all inside, that and the Brugal Siglo de Oro he located in the Dominican Republic. I think everyone in the bar from the birthday boy to the dishwasher got poured a snort to honor the day. Smooth velvety caramel. It must also inspire madness, since I was torn between two rather exotic cocktails on the menu. Brent picked the Cat Juggler, so I opted for the Brazilian Necktie: 'Serrano and Anaheim pepper infused Leblon Cachaça, cucumber, lime, garnished with smoked salt and pepper'. It had the most amazing vegetable taste of cucumber and pepper. It was not a big hit with the other tastees, and I confess finishing it started to become a chore as the novelty wore off, but still a neat experiment. The novel ingredient in the Cat Juggler is rum infused with Caribbean jerk spices, and the heat and flavor it gives off is also pretty remarkable. Again, I can imagine it wearing thin after a while, but I enjoyed the sip I had. Others opted for their one-to-two-customers version of the zombie, the 28 Days Later.

From there, we had a longer trip out to Hollywood to hit up the Roosevelt Hotel, stopping first at the Library Bar, notable for its use of fresh herbs and ingredients beautifully displayed on the bartop. It's a rather small space, and I didn't have a very successful interaction with the bartender, so I felt like I got what was on his mind, rather than what I wanted. I understand the first-string staff was at a competition, so maybe it's worth another attempt. Anyway, I wound up with something based primarily on hot pepper infused mezcal. I probably should have answered untruthfully when he asked if I liked hot things. It was okay, but probably the most disappointing cocktail of the night, since I had high expectations. Also disappointed that I didn't get a taste of the Last Tango in Modena. I watched the bartender pour the last of the balsamic vinegar, while I was waiting at the bar, and then there were no more to be made that night. I think some of our party got them, but I didn't manage to sneak a taste.

Thence, upstairs to The Spare Room, complete with two lanes of bowling and many other games, from backgammon to Connect Four. It's really a neat space, but here was where I truly realized how trendy the Roosevelt has become. Up til a few years ago, you'd drive out-of-town guests past a somewhat rundown edifice, point at it and say, "That's where the first Academy Awards were held," and keep driving. Now the building is thronged with 21-25 year old beautiful people. I was aiming to start my descent here, but (perhaps sensing backsliding among his peoples) Aaron ordered a giant pewter punchbowl to keep us all in the game. It was pleasant and berry-y, and fun to have a communal kettle. On the way out, waiting at the valet, I helped prove the maxim that enough alcohol makes any man a little gay. I found myself ogling the shoes on the wannabe starlet exiting the passenger side of the auxiliary penis. Forgive my heterosexual-guy lack of vocabulary, but it was sort of a wedge sandal, but the insole(?) was a half inch thick perfectly formed piece of transparent lucite, as though she were levitating a half inch above her shoe.

Then a longer drive out to 1886 at (what's left of) the historic Raymond Hotel in Pasadena. Another beautiful bar, done up 1880's style. Again, we shared a champagne punch with strawberry shrub, and -- being at the end of the line -- had time to sit for a bit rather than rushing off to the next destination. And then the various goodbyes as people were brought back to their cars distributed around the greater LA area. I think my head hit my pillow at 3:15. Long and exhausting, but great fun, and it feels like somehow I squeezed an extra day into my weekend, albeit I slept through much of Saturday morning. Thanks again to Aaron for organizing and Smaug for driving. And all my lovely companions - mwah!


Saturday evening, it was off to Theatre Banshee (associated with the HPLHS) for The Crucible, in an outing organized by colleenky

Now, I may earn the disdain of a particular fraction of my friendslist, but I am really not much of a fan of live theatre. One of my many faults. Not much interest, and even less knowledge and experience. It's likely that more experience would increase knowledge and interest, but I have only one life, and I've already squandered half of one on role-playing games and books. But I do fondly recall reading The Crucible in high school, and the topic of the Salem Witch Trials is dear to me (as it was to Lovecraft). So a convergence of these elements brought me out to Theatre Banshee, which my friends have been raving about since it came into existence. I was not disappointed.
The play rests on John Proctor's shoulders, and I think Shawn Savage did a magnificent job of being purified by fire. Barry Lynch provided a robust and believable Giles Corey, half humorous and half saint. Sarah van der Pol was more than adequately hateful as Abigail Williams. Kevin Stidham's Rev. Hale made a believable and frenzied conversion from complicity with, to horror of, the trials. Vivian Kerr found the right note of blubbering weakness as Mary Warren. Hollie Hunt was a perfect stage-Tituba (though the real woman was more likely Arawak Indian than African). If I had to finger a weakness, I would have to reluctantly point at the Rev. Parris of Matt Foyer (star of The Whisperer in the Darkness). While the rest of the cast generally seemed well at home in 17th century Puritan New England, he was rather a Shadow Out of Time with his nervous gesticulations (though they drew some laughs, I'm not sure that business was needed). The troupe filled that small space with a large space's amount of drama, and it's a wearying experience. No one gets what they deserve, and this uncomfortable truth makes The Crucible both satisfying and unsatisfying.
 
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From:colleenky
Date:May 16th, 2011 03:59 pm (UTC)
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At Cole's, that was my Moscow Mule you tasted. :-) I crawled into bed shortly after 4am and woke unbidden around 7:20 Saturday morning. Meh. (Finally caught up on sleep last night.) Many thanks to Kevin for chaufering us and of course to Aaron for getting old and providing the opportunity. ;-)
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From:essentialsaltes
Date:May 16th, 2011 04:01 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, I too woke up after about 3 hours sleep. I took a quick look at the world and went back to the pillow for another 3 hours.
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From:colleenky
Date:May 16th, 2011 04:09 pm (UTC)
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I tried, but my brain refused to go back to sleep. And then I had to get to the Deadwood game.
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From:smaugslair
Date:May 16th, 2011 06:01 pm (UTC)
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I'm with you on the preference for Max's gin fizz 'mistake' over the proper recipe.

I took the tiniest sip of the Brugal Siglo de Oro, and it was one of the best things I've ever tasted, ranks with my first taste of absinthe.

There was a LOT of eye candy at the Roosevelt, but even in my sober straightness I did notice the lucite soles of that woman, once I got my eyes down that far.
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From:aaronjv
Date:May 16th, 2011 09:35 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for coming, thanks to Kevin for driving (forgot to thank in the reply).

It's nice to be mostly off the clock for these places; I still have to cover the Spare Room.

Try to have a Last Tango at the Library, made by the head bartender, Matthew Biancaniello. He's my FB friend, and posts when he'll be behind the stick. I can almost guarantee that it won't be your favorite cocktail ever, but you won't ever taste anything like it. It's a strange sensation to have your tastebuds partying in three different houses, each with a different DJ playing different music, trying to out-loud each other.

Cheers!

Journal of No. 118