Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Eat a little something, will ya? - Tiki Month

All this TikiMonth-ing has made me ponder the matter of edibles and what I generally have developed for our Tikifests.

Food wise, it is pretty easy, at least on paper. Heat a lot of Trader Vic's-ish storebought stuff (Polynesian meatballs, coconut shrimp, spring rolls...all available at my neighborhood Costco) and only make a couple of other items: crab Rangoon (in the form of a hot dip with wonton chips from Whole Foods, instead of the bundled in wontons and then deep-fried...basically the same taste with a fraction of the work) and grill off a coop's worth of huli-huli chicken* or Asian-style BBQ ribs.

The Crab Rangoon, incidentally, was a smash and another of those absurdly easy things to make.

1lb flaked crabmeat (no need to get the super expensive Jumbo Lump, the lowest grade -- not lowest quality -- will do, because all those expensive chunks will be processed down into flakes anyway...so just get the cheaper flaked crab) from the fish counter, not the cheap stuff in the tuna aisle
1lb cream cheese (I prefer Neufchatel-style, which is also 33% lower in fat...you do whatever)
3 cloves garlic mashed to a paste (use a light hand with garlic, as it's easy for the mild flavor of crab to be overrun)
3 good dashes Worcestershire sauce
2 good dashes hot sauce (I like "regular" Tabasco)
1½ t salt
1 t white pepper
OPTIONAL: Some minced chives could be nice, and would add a splash of color.

Mix everything in a stand mixer or food processor. Put in a shallow-ish soufflé dish and bake at 375F (190C) until the top is golden brown. Serve with wonton chips. Alternative, you can spoon a little blob onto the wonton chip and then broil. (Traditionally, the crab would be folded into a wonton wrapper and deep-fried. I can't be bothered.)

Guests and assorted hangers-on invariably have a great time.

Since my marriage is based on the very equitable (ruthlessly so) principle of "I clean, you cook" my beloved was free to mingle and sparkle and play hostess and generally gab freely with her mom-pals. Once everyone leaves, I prop up my feet and exhale with a beverage or 3.


* Huli-Huli Chicken
2 qt water
2 c soy sauce (I prefer San-J low-sodium, and not for the low sodium)
1 T peanut oil
6 garlic cloves, smashed
1 T grated ginger (fresh, peeled)
8 lb. chicken on bone (I like thighs for a crowd)

18oz pineapple juice, fresh (or, in a pinch, from a carton)
¼c packed light brown sugar
¼c soy sauce
¼c ketchup (Heinz organic is the best, regular Heinz 2nd best)
¼c rice vinegar
4 garlic cloves, smashed
2 T grated peeled ginger
2 T sriracha or Asian chili-garlic sauce
2 c wood chips (opt), soaked for 15 minutes

1. Mix water and soy sauce in large bowl. Heat oil in a skillet at med. high heat until it shimmers. Cook garlic and ginger until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add to water/soy mixture. Put in chicken and refrigerate, covered, for at least 1 hour or up to 12 hours (8 if using regular soy).
2. Mix pineapple juice, sugar, soy sauce, ketchup, vinegar, garlic, ginger, and sriracha in a saucepan and at medium heat simmer until you have about 1 cup, 20 to 25 minutes.
3. Wrap the wood chips in foil packet and poke vent holes in top. Put foiled chips directly on coals or gas burner. Preheat grill until wood chips begin to smoke heavily, about 5 minutes for charcoal and on a gas grill 15 minutes. (Turn all burners to medium-low after the chips smoke up.)
4. Take chicken out of brine and dry with paper towels. Arrange chicken skin-side up on grill (do not place chicken directly above foil packet). Grill until chicken is nicely browned and a thermometer hits 120F, about 30 minutes. Flip chicken over and continue to grill until skin goes crisp and the thermometer hits 170F, figure +/-20 to 25 minutes more. Remove chicken, hit it with about half the glaze, and let rest 5 minutes.

Monday, February 20, 2012

MxMo - Tiki Month

Well, Doug at Pegu Club issued a call for Tiki participants to Mixology Monday ("MxMo") and so I nod assent via this entry submitted, as it were, for your approval. With a history lesson!

It's 1521. You're a chieftain on some lovely Pacific island. You have the most women, the biggest hut, your pick of outrigger canoes. Life is good. Then some big ships show up. "Great. MORE Europeans." The Europeans make friends with your rival chieftain from the other side of the island. You, snub everyone. The Europeans take the snub as a snub and choose to attack you. But they misjudge the tide and leap into water waist deep in full armor, and too far to use their weapons.
You shoot your poisoned allows at their unprotected legs, and slaughter them all, especially the leader.
That leader was Magellan. Immortalized by the Magellan Straits and also that GPS* thingy, among other things.
You're chief Lapu-Lapu and, instead, you're immortalized by a Tiki drink served in a cored-out pineapple, most famously at Walt Disney World's Polynesian Resort's Tambu Lounge. This past Labor Day** we went to this very spot. My long-suffering wife had the selfsame beverage. Verily she loved it and has developed a fondness therefor and I was commissioned to replicate it.
Like so.
You start off with a pineapple. Note the corer. US$3 on eBay. Before I get more carried away with this, let me say I cannot say enough good things about this cheap-o corer. Yes, you can get fancier ones, made of stainless steel with sharper blades and finer teeth. These will give you less jagged pineapple rings, if that means that much to you. I, personally, couldn't care less about the aesthetic qualities of the rings...so the extra 600% premium isn't worth it.
You lop the top off, much like Lapu-Lapu's warriors seemed to have preferred. (Hence the name?)All you have to do to core out the pineapple is center the corer right on the, er, core of the pineapple and drive the corer in, twisting with slight downward pressure. When you get down as far as you want, you pull up as with a manual corkscrew.Et voilàTIP: Place the pineapple being cored inside bowl of some kind, as there WILL be juice spouting forth generously and you want to capture said juice. This will also keep your wife from exhibiting displeasure.
1 Tbsp Simple "2:1" syrup
1 Tbsp Passion fruit syrup (50-50 passion fruit pulp and 2:1 sugar syrup)1 Tbsp Orgeat
2 oz Orange juice (absent any fresh-squeezed, of all the supermarket brands, I suggest Florida Natural)

2 oz Pineapple juice (absent any fresh-squeezed -- you'll recall I said above you wanted the fresh juice -- I suggest Dole in the CARTONS, not the can)
2 oz Dark rum (I like Appleton Estate Extra, but I am trying to finish a decanter of Myer's. Clement's Rhum JM would be a stellar choice, as would Flor de Caña 18 or any other particularly dark aged rum.)
2 oz White Rum (I like Cruzan Aged Light, but I was trying to finish up a gifted bottle of Bacardi Silver)
[Picture would have gone here, but my eldest was getting hollered at by my beloved.]
Put this all in a shaker with about 6oz of cracked ice. Then you shake...

...and shake. Until the tin of the shaker frosts over.
TIP: With any drink calling for syrups, juices, etc. and you're only using ONE measuring vessel (i.e. a jigger or shot glass) do so in this order: syrups THEN juices THEN any flavored liquors or liqueurs THEN the spirits. The thinner and more "solvent" liquids will better rinse out the previous, thicker/stickier ones.
And here you are.
(all photos -- both the excellent and the ones which proved unusable -- courtesy of Numbah One Son)

* SatNav to the rest of the Anglosphere.

** First Monday in September to the rest of the Anglosphere.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The boy can't help it.

Here's the thing.

I am, in willful admission thereof, something of a cocktailian. Given that I reside in the Fringe O' Paradise, that skews to Tiki mixology, but not exclusively. In fact, I am positively ecumenical on the matter of potables, enjoying wines, beers, liqueurs, and ardent spirits, both neat and mixed.

In fact, with the sole exception of cocktails being subjected to coupe glasses -- or worse, vintage/vintage-looking coupe glasses -- I am a veritable sanctuary of liquid tolerance.

That I am a beacon of said liquid tolerance doesn't mean I am bereft of personal opinions on the matter. Oh, nononono. Not only do I have opinions, but they are the correct opinions to have. (My tolerance is manifested in not hurling vile abuse -- deservedly -- at those who disagree.)

Anyway, since it's Tiki Month as per the authority conferred upon Doug when he was declared one of the Top Twenty Cocktail People On The Internet Right Now* (if you don't believe that, just ask him) I have been paying closer attention than ever to his blog.

In following link upon link, I came up on a post by him a few years back on the matter of glassware and I wanted to expand on this theme somewhat. For two reasons, his focus is that of a specialist and mine more of a generalist, and also because I have specific opinions I wish to impart to the masses which he was far too much of a gentleman to do.

First off, I want to make general suggestions as re. the glassware that you need assuming you are the sort of person who is likewise ecumenical in one's choices, beverage-wise.

You will need:

a) A 6oz cocktail (i.e., "martini") glass
b) A "medium" or "all purpose" (6-8 oz.) wine** glass
c) A +/-12oz double old-fashioned
d) A +/-14oz highball or "cooler" or "Collins" (which are technically not the same, but that doesn't stop people from mislabeling them)
e) A +/-16oz "water" wine glass (which is ideal for water, beer -- esp. draft if you are so equipped to dispense -- and anything relatively weak and likely to get warm soonish if not for the stem.

Next, in my opinion, you should get them from an (online if needed) restaurant supply store. A good idea for which lines to get is by looking at what caterers use. Catering use is harsher than bar use, because these have to be schlepped around, set up, used at a wedding or bar mitzvah, packed up, schlepped back, washed, put away, taken down and the cycle repeats.

But you also want something stylish but not too "now" lest it look stupid in 3 years. From all the things that meet these eminently sensible criteria, I suggest

Luigi Bormioli "Strauss" for highballs, DOFs, etc. and "Michelangelo" stemware (more classic, pricier) which is what we have because I was involved in our bridal registry at every step. My wife sometimes can't shake off the tic.
Libbey Cosmopolitan (more stylized and CRAZY cheap)

The best deals I have found are at Wasserstrom.com, where a case of Libbey Cosmopolitan cocktail glasses run under $20/case. Stop and ponder that.

If you do a lot of Tiki cocktailery, you can get away with all of the above -- crazy garnishes compensate very easily for an otherwise plain glass -- and the 14oz (there is/was also a 20z, but hanged if I can find it) Lancaster Colony Tiki glass, conveniently also available at Wasserstrom, and also conveniently under $4/unit when you buy a case of 24. This is the very glass that has been used at Disney's Polynesian Resort since Day One, and at Disneyland's Trader Sam and available in their respective gift shops for almost 5x the price.

Mind you, when it comes to glassware for "the dining room" (vs. "the bar") I am a huge proponent of the far more delicate wares from Riedel, Spigelau, etc. who also make cocktail vessels but, as I have learned the hard way, these simply do not survive the less forgiving bar/party environment.



* I suspect this is because he, y'know, bothers to blog regularly.

** This is for the purposes of drinking wine in a cocktail setting, not for drinking wine within the context of a meal, a whole 'nother thing.

In Honor of Tiki Month, yet again.

You people thought I was kidding when I said things would be going really slow.

HA! I guess I showed you!

Part of this slowitude is the fact that I have an æsthetic constraint, which we have discussed in great depth previously, which limits me to Only Tiki-ish Things I Can Get Free Or Cheaper. I am also hampered by the fact my DIY skills are somewhere between "nonexistent" and "abysmal."

And yet!

I put up that shelf.

And I put Tiki drinking vessels upon it. Oh, yes I did. A Fourtune Fire Bowl -- a great hit at parties as people love to drink things with a fire nearby -- and three unnamed Tiki mugs I grabbed at a garage sale for "stupid cheap" and a Miehana mug I found on eBay for (I'm embarrassed to say how little) when the seller (mis)spelled it "Mihana."

But is that all I have done?


Scouring as I do garage sales, I scored a midsized "coffer" with an Asian look to it (it has a shallow relief of a lotus blossom)
and this especially sweet bamboo shaped bottle and it will be converted into a light with the aid of one of those cork-and-wick things where you fill the bottle with, say, citronella and light the thing.
I followed this up with a snazzy bamboo serving tray, with cutouts to carry six stemmed glasses and a fairly useful load of, say, crab rangoon.
Then, feeling the giddy rush of acquring things at the dizzying rate of one ever 8 weeks, I went all out at a rummage sale where I scored not one, but two sets of prints. One of these assorted exotic (to someone who has never been anywhere near a zoo) animals and another of vintage nautical charts of the south Pacific.

Did I mention they were really cheap? $2 for the complete haul?

Because I was kind of enamored with the idea of cool, Tiki-ish prints, I found some SHAG examples from Disneyland's Enchanted Tiki Room's 40th anniversary.
Finally I managed to consolidate all my cocktail/wine/beer/spirits books into one spot.
For those of you who recall the "waterfall plan" I decided to arrange the rain gutters such that right behind the window in question there is a cutout which will allow our torrential rainstorms to drain in a waterfall-y way. A couple of cheap fountain pumps might be pressed into duty for a day sadly lacking in Noah-and-the-Ark-rain.

One thing I'm also in the process of getting is a vintage, bamboo-ish china cabinet to use as a back bar and to showcase the assorted drinkware and bottles. But it's gotta be cheap.


Monday, February 13, 2012

How to play the prep thing

To anyone with sufficient cubic footage to the cranium, it is readily apparent that Preppy is back. In its popular manifestations, there will be differences from the last time Preppy was visible on the public radar. To the hardcore, true-believer, diehard none of this will make any sense, because preppy never went away, at least not in civilized enclaves, like, say, my house.

One big, huge, humongous difference...the paradigmatic shift that tells the world "that was then, this is now" is Ralph Lauren's Polo. 25 years ago, the last time we had popular culture invaded by the tasteful and well-bred, Polo was the teeniest blip on the prep-o-graph. Now, it takes the placeS once occupied by Brooks Brothers and LL Bean. If, 25 years ago, someone had said "X dresses so preppy!" you would have visualized Brooks Brothers and/or LL Bean. Today you would imagine that person clad, from sole to crown, in Ralph's finery. This has allowed RL to amass an impressive empire, slowly eroding prep market share, not only from Brooks Brothers and LL Bean, but Lands' End, Jos. A Bank's and others. Some other competitors moved into seriously hardcore prepwear, the kind of stuff that separates the real deal from the wannabe. J. Press & Andover shop spring to mind.

Other places just junked the whole prep market and went for the jugular of the suburban, semi-affluent teen...like Abercrombie & Fitch, which has forsaken its original clientele with a marketing approach that would have made Robert Mapplethorpe delirious with longing.

Anyway, the point of today's entry is that it is very easy to overdo the prep thing and become, frankly, a caricature. Much of that is attitude. If you wear, f'rinstance, chinos with some embroidered motif, you must do so with the clear understanding--and broadcast as such--that these are perfectly ridiculous. These garments exemplify and make public and tickle your sense of whimsy. Same for madras pants (comfortable as they are in the swelter of a SoFla summer) or Nantucket Reds. The arriviste will have done the above with a sense of seriousness, the same sense of seriousness you see in people who disfigure their appearance with, for example, Versace apparel. The truly clueless arriviste, will mix and match. Memo to the C.A.: If you wish to attempt to dress preppy, it helps to have some preppy friends, to serve as a reference point. Polo, in spite of the myriad high-quality products, is not the arbiter of taste or preppiness. Nobody wears a crewneck sweater around his waist with a business suit with an untucked shirt with galoshes and with dreadlocks. Trust me.

Another aspect that distinguishes the true-blue from the fakey-doo is the age of the garments. Preppy clothing is of utterly unimpeachable quality and, since it will always be stylish, it will last almost forever. Attempts to emulate this have been rampant with "stonewashed" this and "distressed" that. This, in the long run, will fail to work. Cheap stuff pre-beat up will never look the same as really good stuff you have had for eons. As Poppy will testify, it is very possible to have numerous items still on active wardrobe rotation after 20 years. Like the buttondown in which I am arrayed.

The easiest step in which to make a misstep will come in the form of paisley. Paisley is thoroughly acceptable, in concept. The catch is that you have to make sure it is a tasteful, discreet paisley. That is, if you can tell it's a paisley from more than 10'/3m away, then you should ditch it. Paisley pairs up best with other subtle details...like a tight, muted glen plaid and a very quietly pinstriped shirt.

Lastly, avoid the ridiculous. The ridiculous will inevitably come in the form of pathetic tartans. It always does. Once you see tartans everywhere, the end is nigh.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The deadline story, for Cate the Great

I was working on a screenplay with a great pal of mine. A for-real Hollywood writer with a very long, distinguished, celebrated career. Things were going well and we were in a lull, waiting for the suits to send back notes. During this lull, she emailed me because another project of hers, with another (celebrated, etc.) writer friend of hers was stagnating. The dialogue was stilted, the plot was muddled and they hadn't even gotten out of the 2nd act. She had been paralyzed with angst for days over the intractable difficulties in the script.

She wrote: "I hate dumping this on you, but you're better than the guy cowriting this with me. Would you mind taking a pass at this and sending me your thoughts by next week?"

I said yes, and she sent.

Late the next afternoon, I had fixed the dialogue made a smallish plot correction that proved key and then cranked out the 3rd act. I sent Ito her.

Her reply?

"OMG, that's brilliant.

I hate you. "

Saturday, February 04, 2012

In Honor of Tiki Month, some more.

After much effort, toil, angst, deliberation and frenetic Craigslist-surfing...I managed to get the very first component towards my (eventual) Tiki habitat. I managed to buy a bar and (I think) a pretty bloody nice one at that. It has only a couple of tiny dings and chips, but nothing that even someone as manually unskilled as I can't set right. Those teeny flaws aside, it's practically new.

Below is the "overall view" of the beast.

It weighs a TON...that slab o'granite top does not help and, even worse, makes it ridiculously top-heavy when all you have are one and a half men (me & #1S) to schlep it from the wifely minivan to the back room via the obstacle course of a hypercluttered garage, tall steps and rugged lawn terrain. Even worse when the grownup in the equation is supposedly down with the flu. But I am nothing if not committed.

Or, perhaps this is proof I should be.

I'm slightly embarrassed to state in public how little I paid for this thing. I spotted it on CL and it was being sold by a storefront church which seems to have been using it (probably donated, I'm guessing) as a hallway table. All of the other semi-acceptable bars I had seen on CL for the last year -- did I mention I was patient? -- were running in the $1500 range (turns out this caliberbar retails for +/-$3K + sales tax) and this was not only FAR nicer, but also FAR cheaper. When I got there I was pleasantly surprised to see it more "tikiable" than I expected, with rattan-like panels and a workable color. It's got a Tommy Bahama-ish kinda feel to it. (See next)

Above is a closeup of the ornamental detail. (See what I mean about the Tommy Bahama thing?) So the question is this: How could I tikify those column-ish/rosette things (they look like they will pry off cleanly and relatively easily)? I was thinking of a shallow-ish set of wooden plaques with something (anything!) more tiki-ish, and possibly replacing those grooved columny details with something bamboo-y.

You may have thought I was on an extended jag of slackery and sloth. But no. There are men who, when the muse strikes them to transform a given area of their dwelling into a particular habitat immediately set to it with implements of demolition, followed by power tools wielded with much artistry, and in three weekends you have a showpiece in the back room/basement/terrace/etc. I, as will become abundantly clear in subsequent entries, possess almost entirely none of the skills required to bring such a project to gorgeous fruition.

Between what I have in my mind's eye and and what I have NOW is a vast expanse mostly traversed via credit card, and then only when my beloved looks upon me with benevolence and pity. So, necessarily, my approach must differ from that of my betters. Instead of hurling myself headlong into a project and gracefully dispatching unexpected obstacles with a breezy smile, I must plan, plan, plan and then plan some more. Even this is less than ideal, because I can't draw. As a consequence, I have to pursue matters in an even more primitive way. Planning with crayon, if you will.

What I do is simply to scour Craigslist, thrift shops and garage sales and see what I find. Whenever I am feeling expansive, I even rummage through eBay. The purpose is to gather the necessary chattels of tikification so that when the happy day for launching my Tiki habitat approaches all I'll really have to do is cover the walls with __________, cover the ceiling with ___________, install _________ lighting and I'm good to go.

I know some people like that clutter-shack look, some people like that nautical/shipwreck look. I'm happy to go with a theme I call All The Tiki Things I Got Really Cheap Look. Your mileage may vary. Therefore, just to show you that I am still feverishly working the whole Gather Mode Thing, here are the acquisitions as of today. I have a couple of small bits o' tiki-ish hand luggage. I have no idea what I'll use them for, but they were free and tiki enough for me. Next to them is a medium-ish bit o' tiki luggage that I also have no idea what to use it for. I'm thinking these may hold all the odds and ends one needs to have handy in one's tiki habitat, but which would either look weird and out of place in the open OR would be stashed somewhere inconvenient. Feel free to suggest. I also got that smallish cabinet ($8) under the drinks-globe where I am storing all the non-tiki glassware; because, after all, you may get the odd guest who would rather have a Negroni than a Navy Grog. I'm thinking some refinishing and judicious appliqués would do wonders for it. Propped up against it is a brass & cherrywood shelf. Doesn't look particularly Tiki (but a case could be made that it looks nautical-ish) but it was only $5. Ignore the TV dinner tray tables. And finally, atop the bar a plumed tikiand the tiki glassware. I had never seen a plumed tiki, but for $1.50 I was willing to take a chance. Now. Here I must make a confession that just might send me from the list of Orthodox Tikiphiles to Reformed (if not Heretical) Tikiphiles. I prefer tiki glassware to tiki mugs. There. I said it. That's not to say I don't like mugs (in fact, there are several I have in my sights and you can see I have Trader Vic's coconut mugs and Mai Kai rum barrels) but that I prefer the glassware.

Because I am also something of a Disneyphile (what? shut up.) I like the glasses from WDW's Polynesian Resort. From left to right we have 1- current WDW Polynesian Resort Tiki glass (short, clear) a gift from the lovely & gracious Poppy, 2- Hukilau 2008 DOF, 3- vintage-ish Trader Vic coconut mug, 4- recent-ish Mai Kai rum barrel, 5- plumed tiki I got for practically nothing, 6- mid70's WDW Polynesian Resort Tiki highball, 7- Hukilau 2009 DOF, 8- mid70's WDW Polynesian Resort Hurricane glass, and 9- vintage-ish WDW Polynesian Resort Tiki glass (tall, frosted & logo'ed). Not pictured: vintage-ish WDW Polynesian Resort Tiki glass (short, frosted & logo'ed).

Now, I'd LOVE to get some suitably tiki "luggage stickers" for the baggage. Given that my decor philosophy for the tiki habitat is "What things in nice shape can I get REALLY cheap?" and given what's out there in general, I think this will eventually skew more in the tiki-nautical direction. Bamboo, rattan, but also dark woods and brass. (I'd love to include a periscope, but I think the zoning guys may object strenuously.)

More than anything else -- and here I think I'm in the solid majority of Tikiphiles -- I want this habitat to be IMMERSIVE. You step in, plop down, and within 10 minutes have no idea if it's day or night, what day of the week it is, or even what year it is. Speaking of mugs, etc. there are a few I'd dearly love to have. The room in question -- a rather narrow-but-deep specimen -- has a decent sized window at the very back; where "behind the bar" would be. The view from said window is underwhelming. I'd LOVE to put something waterfall-ish there. (More on this anon.)

Again, patient Craigslistery has paid off in that I have found an old "wine cabinet" with a ruined refrigeration unit for -- let's just round down -- essentially nothing. Took out all the rusted, useless guts and I am left with a lovely, near-mint solid oak cabinet. Rattanize (this is a stretch for me, so cross your fingers) the panels, stain to match the bar and I finally have a place to stash my hoard of ardent spirits, liqueurs, syrups, bitters and hyperabundance of glassware (both Tiki and civilian). The former winecellar thing has been rigged up to be functional. Not IDEAL, mind you. But functional. As you can see, it came with a upholstery-ish grapevine fabric panel lining thing that's more Napa Valley than Rapa Nui. So, regrettably, it's gotta go. (If, for some bizarre reason, while you are on a Tiki forum you're also in the market for some grapevine fabric panels...I will trade them for something cool. Then I'll be Trader Joke. All sales final, offer void where prohibited.)

I removed the X-shaped wine bottle storage shelving and installed (screwing in things more-or-less-level is pretty much the uppermost limit of my DIY skill set) a couple of glass shelves rescued from a Craigslist fridge, and a sliding shelf -- you can see it in the fully extended position above -- from a cannibalized computer desk and a (temporary) light. These shelves are framed with suitably sized wood frames, from a frame guy...who looked at me VERY weird when I made this request. And, most elegantly, I tucked in my old dorm fridge which my wife had been begging me to jettison for epochs. (I covered up the space with some spare grape fabric. It's a complete jury rig, but looks fine from 3 ft or further, and besides this isn't permanent.)

The flooring on this beast is an unholy mess. Some ancient sort of parquet that probably began to dissolve its bonds sometime during the Ford Administration. That one's easy...bamboo flooring. This is the outside, in its current state. Remember that. Besides rattanizing the front, which is likeliest the Tiki aesthetic path of least resistance, I have been toying with the idea of covering the outside with [I have no idea what, just go with me on this, will ya?] to make it look like a big steamer trunk of yore. Then I'd slap a lot of the same travel stickers as I threatened to do to those Tiki hand-luggage pieces from 2-3 paragraphs ago. I am not sure what I'll discover once I excise the grapey fabric. Assuming it's merely fabric and padding, I was thinking of replacing the fabric with something suitably Tiki. Maybe reconditioning some past-their-prime shirts, or some tapa cloth or...something.

Since I know you guys have all been on pins and needles as re. the back window of the proposed Tiki habitat, here's what I have struck upon. (Tell me where I am making a blunder, before I start taking out implements and making changes.) The eventual window-behind-the-bar in question is +/- 5ft (call it 1.5m for those so inclined) by +/- 3ft (.9m). There is also enough room under that overhang (6ft/1.8m) to plant correct tropical foliage to add suitable depth. Unlike our cousins in chillier climes, all of the usual foliage will grow outside just fine. Also! I had been musing about a waterfall oustide that window. Which led me to...think of playing with the rain gutters so that, immediately behind this window, all the water from a given rainfall (it's been known to rain here in Miami...no, really, it does) can be channeled into a serious rainfall. Anyway, this is the room that will eventually become the Immersive Tiki Habitat. You can see what I'm talking about. Its current purpose is to serve as a homework station, which is why you will spy all sorts of shelf-y, computer-y things. Incidentally, the desk on the right came THISCLOSE to being comandeered as a bar. It's from Broyhill's "Fontana" line. The size is right, and with some very minimal work (a couple of bamboo-ish wood appliqués, some matting and tah-dah) can be turned into a Tiki bar very happily. Those are going for $200 on CL, on average. Just saying. Anyway, that's it for this report. Feel free to chime in with suggestions or impassioned cries of warning.


P.S. For those who are interested in following the progress of my eventual tiki habitat, be warned...this will go GLACIALLY slow, as I have very little in the way of time and even littler in the way of DIY skills and even littler than that in $$ my beloved wife will allow me to spend on such a project. Even if the projected space is the size of a medium phone booth.

Friday, February 03, 2012

In Honor of Tiki Month

You will be pleased, dear Internet. No, really. Slightly relieved, but mostly pleased.

It is a good thing the estimable cocktailian Doug Winship has declared it Tiki Month. (Not entirely sure how he has arrived at such authority, but hey, let's just play along.) So I decided to blog and share.

You may have been wondering where I have cyber-been. (Then again, you mayn't, but this is my blog, and therefore such curiosity will be imputed to you, jointly and severally.)

It's a fair question. The answer to which requires a bit of a back story, so sit back and let the glow of the narrative envelop you.

Coming up soon is #1S's 15th birthday party. #1S -- like me and wholly unlike #2S -- really cares that he has parties which people remember. He enjoys the social-arbiter status of conferring standing and prestige upon invitees when they have been invited to a given #1S bash. (My long suffering wife, being the Goldilocks, is somewhere in between.)

Therefore, he likes his parties to verily kick arse. Especially now that having girls hold you in great esteem dawns as something of ever-growing importance. The way that our parties seem to work out is that there are usually +/- 15 kids (#1S was born in the middle of the summer, so there are a significant number of his friends who are gone.) about half of whom tend to be drop-offs and the other half, obviously, aren't.

This means the non-dropoff-ees usually drag along at least one parent (80% of these are mothers). Some drop off for the excursion or movie part, but come over for the edibles and potables. They skip the wedding, but attend the reception, if you will.

Interestingly, this represents a fairly streamlined affair from 3-4 years ago when a brigade of children was the norm.


Last year, the plan was to go to the wave pool for what passes for surfing in wave-free Fringe o' Paradise and then repair back to the estate for Tiki-ish potables and edibles. That proved an epic smash.

Hold that thought.

So NOS decides that, since last year was such a smash, and since last year his best friend's wildly overprotective mother wouldn't allow him (the friend) to go, but this year she will, that he should reprise the festivities and execute this plan all over again. When mentioned in casual chatter to people, many had said this was excellent and how much they loved it or how deeply they regretted having dropped off and not loitered around to "hang out with you guys.**"

A few weeks ago, I got an email stating Trader Vic's in Portland had FINALLY* reopened. I mentioned this lightly to the exceedingly lovely and amazingly gracious
Poppy (who had nurtured and fostered my silliness in this direction and who allows me to venerate her first class relic first edition copy of the Trader Vic's Guide to Food & Drink whenever I'm visiting), and then went to look at their site. Which led me to think that, if I planned a little bit ahead of time, unlike last year when the thing popped up last minute, I could do something more impressive and cheaper.

OK. The reason I have told you all that is so I can tell you this:

Doing the above takes research.

Which is where I have been.


Thankfully, the Internet is scrofulous with people who are, in varying degrees of mental disturbance seriousness, really into this whole Tiki thing. (Stand by for a post detailing these fine folks in a luxury of details.)


Tere, stay with me, you're in this.) One of the original "Polynesian Pop" outposts, like a coealacanth*** swimming through the ocean of the hospitality industry, the Mai-Kai, is practically in my backyard.


I got to looking.

First off, it's a ton(ne) of effort to pull off the whole Poly-Tiki Castaway trip full-time. I, for one, do not have the DNA to do this, but my battered straw hat is off
to those who do.

Of those who do, there are two in particular to whom I'd like to draw your attention.

The first is a respected beverage journalist and author,
Jeff Berry. He needs no plug from the likes of me, but his blog is an excellent resource and crazy-fun.

The other is, by all indications, a guy named
Blair Reynolds. That is, until, you pore deeper into his bloggery. This guy is to cocktails what I am to food. A manic, obsessive mad scientist. Here is a guy who thinks nothing of making his own orgeat syrup (as well as a lot of the exotic ingredients that go into drinks like the Scorpion, Zombie, Navy Grog, etc.) because the commercial stuff is either unavailable or unacceptable.

If he had stopped there, he should be one of your heroes. But he didn't. If he had stopped at
owning more different bottles of rum than the Caribbean Council of Distillers -- and not cheap ones, either -- that'd be pretty stunning, too.

But o
n top of THAT he's started his own company to manufacture and sell the fixings for these Tiki cocktails, of high-quality ingredients with nary a chemical on the radar. Go buy his stuff.

Anyway, all this took me out of my loop for a while. I looked up crazy stuff on eBay, dredged up drink**** recipes, food recipes, tracked down crazy fonts and clipart, etc. That, dear Internet, is how I spent the time otherwise allotted to bloggery.
I was able to scratch out a prototype menu (and save-the-dates invitations, etc.) and cheaper than finding something that's not quite what I wanted.

So, to be a pal I will now share with you MY recipe for the Mai-Tai, which, I assure you, is the definitive one.

1 oz golden rum (I like Doorly's XO)
1 oz aged rum (I like Barbancourt 8)
[the original recipe called for 2 oz of J. Wray & Nephew 17 Year Old Rum, which these days costs -- get this -- $2K if you can find it. You can try substituting any of those aged rums like Zacapá or Matusalén. I haven't gotten that far yet. For the purposes of cocktailing it up for a large crowd of freeloaders guests, go with a good "utility" aged rum, I just go w. straight Bacardi 8 and all is fine.]
¼-½ oz orgeat
½ oz Cointreau (for a large crowd of freeloaders guests, I use Citronge) ¼-½ oz "rock candy" syrup (which is basically 3:1 simple syrup to which I add the merest trace of vanilla.)
1 oz fresh lime juice, not that flourescent green stuff in the bottle.
Mix all ingredients (including the spent lime shells!) and shake with ice. Strain into a glass over fresh, crushed ice. Garnish with lime shell and a sprig of mint, which you have given a slight spank to awaken the essential oils. Maybe a cherry and orange or pineapple.

Now, for the visual learners in the gallery, here it is in a photo-essay format. Because I am awesome like that.


Here is the road company of ingredients: (back to front, left to right)

Rock candy syrup
Steel half of the Boston shaker
Rum (today's star is Barceló Añejo, because I had never tried it and was curious)
Glass half of Boston shaker, with a clip-on strainer (OXO, which is not only the very best, it's also stupidly cheap)
Lime, atop the lime squeezer (were I to be making a bucket of this, instead of one, I'd use the electric juicer, otherwise, I'd wind up with forearms like Popeye)

We start by crushing ice. The first batch of which goes into the glass. (This glass? Birthday gift from the extremely lovely and monumentally gracious Poppy.) For added cold-related excellentness, I put it in the freezer, on standby.
And we start building our beverage.

Start with 2 oz. of rum
½ oz. of Cointreau
¼-½ oz. of rock candy syrup (depending on how dry you like it)
¼ to ½ oz. of orgeat (given that Cointreau is drier than triple sec, a little extra orgeat is sometimes needed for balance...you do whatever)
1 oz of lime juice.

Not only do I slice the lime in half, but I also score each half pretty deeply into quadrants. To get maximum juicefulness.
To be safe, I stick the juicer into the steel part of the shaker, lest I spray everything within a 10' (3m) radius with lime juice, especially my eyes.
...and here we have the post-squeezery phase.
Believe me there was an ounce of juice (and a tiny bit over) to be had from that small lime.

Drop the spent lime shells into the glass half of the shaker. Nobody else tells you to do this, but I found you get more of the essential oils from teh skin that way. Fill the steel half with crushed ice.

Assemble the shaker. When you do this make sure you squeeze the steel half ever-so-slightly and that you push and twist the glass half. This creates a seal. Important if you don't want to sprinkle any Mai-Tai all over the place.

Shake until you have a good frost -- not merely condensation -- on the outside of the steel half, then another 5 seconds. For those of you in arid climes, figure 30-45 seconds, total.

Retrieve your vessel from the recesses of the freezer, and pour through the strainer. It is very important you pour into fresh "dry" ice -- not dry ice, mind you.

Garnish with the spent lime shell (or some cherries, pineapple chunk, orange slice, etc.) and some mint which I forgot to add because I was thirsty.


P.S. Yes -- and I cannot believe you ever doubted me -- I made my own orgeat and rock-candy syrup.

* They closed at their original location and between scouting for a new one and fixing that up it took years.

** Enjoy the potables and edibles.

*** Utterly unchanged since 1956, and having survived the boom and the bust of the original Tiki fad.

**** Including alcohol-free "mocktails" for the kids, as #1S particularly enjoys playing with a blender and shaker.