Tonight's Negroni #22: Back to where you once belonged and forward to where you've never been

FYI: This is an archive of my Tonight's Negroni email newsletter.

Hey everybody! How the heck are ya? Did you have nice month off? I sure did.

In fact, I did a bit of traveling. It was my brother-in-law's 40th birthday, so my Special Lady Friend and I flew first to the Phoenix, AZ airport (gross) and then to the Long Beach, CA airport (astoundingly cute). We've become aficionados of quaint airports recently. The BiL used to live in Los Feliz (pronounced FEE-lez, inexplicably), and we enjoyed arriving via the Burbank airport. LGB has BUR beat, I have to say -- most of it is outdoors!

Going to Long Beach was an odd homecoming for me. It's where my mom & dad lived when I was born. I was technically born in a neighboring town, but I've always claimed LBC as the birthplace people would actually recognize. As such it was weirdly exciting to visit for the first time in approximately 40 years. (Yes, I am old!)

I have to say, it lived up to all the expectations I would have denied having and then some.

After my mom escaped California with pre-toddler me, I grew up along the Gulf coast for Florida. That meant being a towhead blond with a mahogany tan (Hello, dermatologists!) and mostly not wearing shoes even when scooting around our apartment complex parking lot on my skateboard. I still have scars on the bottoms of my feet.

Then we moved to a fairly rural area in Eastern Tennessee, where I grew into a teenager. Because I "weren't from around here" I was always a bit of a foreigner there. As I grew older I actually fostered that. I was a reasonably-abled drawer (hardly and artist, though), so I'd always draw a beach scene on my new notebooks with a surfboard, palm tree and sunset. I thought it was gorgeous.

The thing is, my beach play in Florida involved things like skim boarding, boogie boarding, and body surfing (I was pretty killer!), but never once an actual surf board. Yet I would actually buy a surf magazine occasionally. I still love watching surf movies, in fact.

So, when I found myself on the Huntington Beach pier looking down at the frighteningly tanned punks with day-glo blond hair doing some pretty badass surfing, I was definitely wistful. Like that coulda been me back in the day or something. Mostly I just stood there and thought wow this is awesome.

While it definitely didn't feel like HOME, it felt like a place I liked to be. A lot.

Not quite home

Self-Promotion Time!

Hey, so some friends (one friend in particular, along with other people I've met a few times) are starting a Colorado-based food magazine. Like made out of paper and everything.

The really weird part is I've been asked to participate. I'm even listed on the IndieGoGo campaign as "Beverage Writer", so ... Neat!

Anyway, it's a cool thing and I'm excited to be involved. If you were feeling magnanimous, you could chip in to the campaign and maybe someday I will actually BE a Beverage Writer. Like on paper and everything!

Who knows?

The Green Knight

This is a drink I made up a a couple years ago when a fell in love with a super botanical gin from California. I posted on my blog then, but I'm reposting it here because it's basically alchemy and I thought you'd enjoy the magic.

  • 2 oz St. George Terroir gin
  • ½ oz Dolin Blanc vermouth
  • ¼ oz Crème de Violette
  • ¼ oz Punt e Mes sweet vermouth
  • 2 dashes lavender bitters
  • 1 dash orange bitters
  • Fresh Thai basil

  • Combine the gin, white vermouth, crème de violette (I just use Rothman & Winter, it has good color and decent flavor) and pause to note the lovely purple color.

  • After a dramatic pause, add the sweet vermouth (you could sub Carpano Antica or Martini Gran Lusso, but don't go lighter than that) and be AMAZED when adding a dark, reddish liquid to a purply liquid TURNS IT GREEN!!!!!
  • After you're over the shock, add the bitters and stir with ice until cold.
  • Pour into a cocktail glass and garnish with a basil sprig that you have clapped between your hands to release just a bit of oil.

It's green!

Active Curation

On Wednesday, I announced on Facebook that I was considering closing my account. It's not like I expected this to shake anybody's world. I just thought I'd open things up for comment to see if there were any compelling relationships in there that I had forgotten to appreciate and that couldn't be continued in a more meaningful way via other, more active, media such as email or even direct contact. Sure I like seeing everyone's pictures and posting my own, but does any of it actually matter. I've come to the opinion that - in MY life - it doesn't, really.

A conversation I had Thursday night with my lovely wife didn't change my attitude much. In fact, it probably reenforced it.

If you feel like reading someone a bit more articulate than myself pondering similar things, I'll point you to my "internet friend" Andre Torrez:

  • In June, he posted I Give Up, which is directly related to this.
  • Just today, he put up I Am Not Busy which is different but related musings about not telling people you're busy when what you really mean is you just aren't interested enough to do whatever it is they are suggesting you do.

Basically, it comes down to the idea of curating (a word that has pretty much been destroyed by hipsters with Tumblr blogs) my life a bit more strictly.

Grant Blakeman, who isn't even really an "internet friend" but to whom I've actually spoken in person, first hit me with the phrase "curating your life actively" at TEDxBoulder in 2010. It's something that has stuck with me for a while, even though I've ended up taking an exactly opposite approach in recent times when it comes to things like "social media" inputs.

I think it might be time to loop back and trim the fat a bit.

NOLA Bound

Tomorrow I get to hop on a plane with several coworkers (and even more acquaintances) and head to RubyConf in New Orleans. This is very exciting for me, because although my mother took me there more than a couple times when I was small, I have no memory of having ever been to New Orleans. I'm very happy to be remedying this omission in my Stateside travels.

Best yet: because I am an excellent husband, I'm staying in New Orleans a couple extra days beyond the conference so that The Wife can come out on Saturday to join me for some of those famous "good times".

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Depending on how things go, I might actually report back with details of what we ate and what we drank and what we saw. Or maybe not.

4th of July Status

Things I didn't do this holiday weekend:

  1. Ride my motorcycle
  2. Start building bookcases
  3. Hang out with friends
  4. Go to the Monday CrossFit workout

Things I did do this holiday weekend:

  1. Finished installing the new baseboard
  2. Made lavender simple syrup
  3. Took the wife out for a lovely lunch at Salt
  4. Cleaned up the garage just a tiny bit
  5. Cooked a bunch so we'll have lots of easy leftovers
  6. Went to the Saturday CrossFit workout and still can't walk straight

I call that a win overall.

G'night, Bunkie.

Just a few seconds ago, I tweeted: "I love that I have a friend that I genuinely call 'Boo'. " And by "genuinely", I suppose I mean that there's real affection associated with that nickname. (The friend in question is also the only person I routinely call by the nickname "Boo". I might casually throw it around, but the same person hardly ever gets it twice.)

This made me remember something formative from my summers in Destin, FL with my grandparents.

My grandfather (a.k.a. "Bapa") would more often than not refer to me as "Bunkie". He'd use it with probably 99% regularity when he put me to bed, but it would come out at other times too. It made me feel special and loved. I worshiped that man, and he had a fancy name for me - how awesome is that?

I only recently found out that "Bunkie" comes from the military barracks -- the guy with whom you shared your steel and cotton bunk bed was your partner (whether you liked him or not); he was your bunkmate - your bunkie.

Bapa earned the rank of Lt. Colonel in the Air Force (Army Air Corps back in WWII), you see. His military background is stronger than some family trees. He found the nickname honestly, even though I had no idea at the time.

In a strange way, that makes it even more special to me.

The Phone App

I haven't actually liked using telephones since high school, but it's getting a little silly. My iPhone home screen This is me every time I have to call a phone number with my iPhone:

  1. Press the "Home" button
  2. Realize that was unnecessary because the "Phone App" is one of the four apps that shows up regardless of what screen I'm on.
  3. Open the "Phone App"
  4. Take a second to realize which screen I'm looking at (generally "Recents" or something).
  5. Take another second to realize that I need to find the number pad and do so.

From there on, I'm cool, but it's such a clunky interaction that I am 90% sure is my problem, not the iPhone's. Perhaps I should make myself start calling people more often before my telephone muscles atrophy altogether...

Gmail Hijackers Ahoy!

Woke up this morning to an interesting email from my mother's address:

Pls reply me back

Happy New Year...

I'm sorry for this odd request because it might get to you too urgent but it's  just because of the situation of things right now, i'm stuck in London, I came down here on vacation, i was robbed, worse  of it is that bags, cash and cards and my cell phone was stolen at GUN  POINT, it's such a crazy experience for me, i need help flying back home, the authorities are not being 100% supportive but the good thing is i still have my passport but don't have enough money to get my flight ticket back home, please i need you to loan me some money, will refund you as  soon as i'm back home, i promise.

Thank you Rand Winton

Hmmm. No. That's not real at all.

I replied to it and the hijackers further prompted me to provide help. So they are actively using her account. Great.

After texting her (she's been bombarded by all her contacts checking whether she's OK or letting her know she's been hacked) I tried to login. Of course her password didn't work. I tried the password retrieval mechanism and it said it was sending the change request email to an address that looks like ******@y****.**.uk -- also not my mother.

So, I have reported the problem to Google and am waiting for their response.

It looks like these people also deleted an announcement I posted to Mom's Facebook wall, too, so I assume they are in there also.

Sometimes the internet is such a jerk!

Update: She has managed to wrangle her Gmail out of the clutches of the baddies. Her Facebook account is currently locked down, but she's barely concerned about that.

The Almost-Annual LA Road Trip

Tomorrow the Wife and I will hop in the Honda and head West-by-Southwest to the Hollywood hills to see her brother and his lady friend. We're extra excited because it's been a couple years between visits, since we hit Portland instead last year. We don't really have any plans for while we're there. We generally play these things by ear. We do have a couple things that should occupy our time:

  • The boy's birthday shindig on Talk Like a Pirate Day.
  • The Wife wants to hit Ripley's and the wax museum while we're there.
  • There's a slim chance I might get to bump into an old friend from from way back in my Tennessee days while we're both in LA. That would be interesting for sure.

Oh and the usual imbibing and staying up late and whatnot.

It's always fun.

If you're interested, you can probably keep track of us on Twitter, Flickr, Facebook and all the "web 2.0 social networking" crap like that.

PS: In case there are any internet stalkerati out there: No, our house is not vacant, so buzz off. ;)

So yeah...

We've had some stuff going on here at Camp Sutton. We're all alive and well, which is the key, I figure. We've also got new tattoos and new hobbies and things of that nature.

What we don't have is complaints, so that's good.

Hope the three of you who check this thing are all well and happy. We are.

Love & hugs. - Jake

Upcoming Entertainment

Check this out: Upcoming concert schedule

So yeah... This week is going to finish well for li'l ol' pseudo-hipster me.

Fact of the matter is I'm so excited for Andrew Bird that I've barely given a thought to Modest Mouse aside from the fact that the show is on CU campus, which is bound to make my skin crawl. When I do make myself think about it, though, I'm pretty darned excited to see them, too.

I've seen Andrew Bird before... long, long ago when he played with and along side of the Squirrel Nut Zippers -- just as he was launching his Bowl of Fire. Since then he has matured and ventured in some really interesting directions musically. NPR's All Songs Considered posted a live show of his (including the opener, Loney, Dear on a separate recording) and that positively blew me a way. Based on this and and on giving his latest music heavy rotation on my ipod I'm as giddy as a little girl.

Modest Mouse hasn't released anything since their 2007 title "We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank", which I enjoyed quite a bit, though maybe a tiny smidge less than their previous two records. Nevertheless, their show at the University of Colorado's football stadium fieldhouse is likely to be packed and rocking. I'm hopeful they might preview some new material while they're at it.

Next on the list is a band from Portland, OR that is really high on my list right now. Blitzen Trapper's indie-folk story song "Furr" from the album of the same name kills me. It's truly one of my favorite songs of 2008. They are playing a small club in Denver, so I'm excited to see them in close quarters.

Beyond that are people you've all heard about, so I won't go into them before I see them.

As for stuff not on the list... Laura Gibson is coming to town on a Sunday in April, so there's a slight chance we might venture out for that. Her latest is really good. Also, I'm cautiously hopeful that I might get a chance to see Leonard Cohen. I will totally brave Red Rocks for him.

Oh, and yes, I'd like to post more often, but I'm a little busy these days... ;)

25 Things

I'm not going to tag anyone, but I'm enjoying all the "25 random things about me" lists from my friends on Facebook enough that I feel lame just pointing everyone to my About page. Here goes:

  1. I love my job, but I'd quit in a second if I suddenly got rich.
  2. I love making things with wood. I wish I did it more and was better at it.
  3. I read slowly and increasingly rarely. Audiobooks and the intarwebs save me from being completely ignorant.
  4. I studied aerospace engineering in college because that's what I thought I'd study in the Air Force Academy. I didn't have a whole lot of back-up plan beyond that.
  5. I still think I should have studied architecture (and I still occasionally think about going back to school for it).
  6. I did a 23 day Outward Bound course in North Carolina. It was incredibly formative for me.
  7. I loved rock climbing and snow boarding when I lived in MA, but I don't do either now that I live in CO.
  8. I drive my cars until they die. Buying a new car sucks.
  9. I once drove my Pontiac Phoenix 100mph with at least a couple friends in the car because I forgot my driver's license on the way to take the ACT.
  10. I am occasionally stunningly stupid. (Less so as I age, thankfully.)
  11. I love this freak show we call the internet with all my heart.
  12. Owning a house makes me happy mostly because it's mine to change if I want (and I always want).
  13. I'm a hopeless romantic and a serial monogamist.
  14. In spite of those two facts, I'm happily stunned by how successful my relationship with The Wife is.
  15. I'm a damned good cook. I do better improvising than following a recipe, usually.
  16. I'm an only child of a single parent and it worked out quite well for me, in my opinion.
  17. Right now, I am aching to travel to Spain.
  18. I love live music. I think I've only seen a couple acts I would call "bad". I'm much more critical of recorded music.
  19. If I have a kid, I seriously want to teach him/her how to make and serve (to Mommy and Daddy, of course) a good dry martini by the age of 10.
  20. I'm still shocked we managed to host a Sutton Family Dinner party for over 50 people in our house. I'm also sure we will never do one that big again.
  21. I have a bad habit of losing contact with friends after I move away. Facebook helps a little, maybe...?
  22. After always being the skinny kid, I was astounded when I managed to get up to 225lb. I managed to get to a more normal weight, but I still have work to do.
  23. I want to learn metal smithing and jewelry making.
  24. Sometimes I'm really annoyed that I don't write poetry anymore.
  25. I'm happy to say I am both a cat and dog person. Dogs are better, though.

Food Awesomeness

When it first came out, Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals was definitely on my radar but was something I chose to actively avoid. I already had a certain level of frustration and paranoia when it came to food industry -- especially the industrial corn engine: high fructose corn syrup has been on my "avoid if possible" list for a while now -- and I figured I'd rather stick to my semi-ignorant partial bliss. Eventually, though, my curiosity won out and I listened to the audio volume of OD on my commute. It's seriously one of the most frustrating/educational/shattering/enlightening things I've done to myself in a long while. I highly recommend it, though it always comes with a warning. It's either going to piss you off, make want to throw your hands up, or make you figure "Fuck it! that's too much to care about!" Or all three. Or more.

Then I immediately moved on to Pollan's In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto, which is basically his answer to all of the people who read OD and wrote him to ask "Well, WTF can I eat and where the hell can I find it?!?" to which he replies with his zen koan of a "manifesto":

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

It's a bit trickier than it sounds, believe me. In particular, when he says "food" he means real food, not engineered and manufactured "food products". He does go on to lay down some more specific - but still simple - definitions and rules that all make perfect sense, but have almost nothing to do with the average Western (more specifically, American) diet these days. I'm happy, though, to hear our new president is at least aware of Pollan's open letter about the state of food in the Union.

These two books have made quite an impact on me, obviously. Thanks to Michael Pollan, I am now researching things like local farmers markets, CSAs, polyculture farming, "slow" food, grass-finished beef, pastured poultry and eggs, and on and on and on. And this stuff doesn't come cheap. Pollan notes that himself, but he also points out that the percentage of income spent on food in the US is almost ridiculously low compared to other countries with healthier-seeming diets/lifestyles, so maybe it's worth it.

It also tends to balance out a bit if you actually cook for yourself, which this shift to whole and real foods has definitely inspired me to do.

That said, I certainly haven't stopped dining out. I have, however, become a bit more discerning in where I take my lovely wife for a meal. Now I look for establishments that do their best to use local and natural ingredients. Luckily, many of these places also make some kick-ass food. I talk about three examples in particular after the jump:

Park Kitchen, Portland, OR

This place was the absolute highlight of our trip to Portlandd. This is saying something fairly significant, because we totally fell in love with that place.

The first time we ate there, we stopped in on our way to see Gogol Bordello in concert at the Roseland Theater. Since we had plans, we went with cocktails and a trio of Park Kitchen's "small plates". The Wife had a martini variation called the Beekeeper, which is knock-your-socks-off delicious and I had a "Summer Sazerac", which was made with herbsaint rather than the traditional absinthe and was quite tasty (though not my favorite Sazerac, see below). The pseudo-tapas consisted of all cold plates: flank steak with bleu cheese and parsley, gin soused tomatoes and cucumbers, and marinated mussels with corn and lobster mushrooms. We finished the night with a corn cannoli desert that featured the most amazing spiced caramel that had such a fantastic sweet and salty combination we couldn't get over it.

We loved the place so much, that we had our wonderful and crush-worthy server, Jenny, make us reservations for the next night, mentioning that it was out wedding anniversary and requesting a corner booth for proper cuddling action.

The next night we came in to the feeling that folks were expecting us and word of our celebration had spread. Jenny came out to welcome us with small glasses of cava and to let us know she was working a private party but would be checking in on us through the night. Our waither for the night, Jack, gave us the best advice of the night when he responded to my "So, what's the story with teh tasting menu?" with a solid "All I can tell you is, do it." And so we did. More cocktails and more beyond excellent food, including rabbit and fried green beans and bacon (by which I mean there were thick strips of bacon that were battered and fired!). Absolutely wonderful. Made even more so by the company of Shane (who, it turns out, concocted the aforementioned Beekeeper, and his father at the table next to us.

We cannot recommend Park Kitchen enough.

SoBo American Bistro, Boulder, CO

My bosses (and good friends, happily) love this place, and so do I. SoBo is the home of the best Sazerac and the best Old Fashioned I've ever had -- all of which are apparently inspired by a book called The Art of the Bar. They also crank out some mighty fine food. I had a parpadelle with chicken meatballs that seriously tasted like pork sausage. It was so incredible that I sent our care-taker, Eileen back to the kitchen to find out how they did it. The answer: pork fat! ;) After that, Eileen sent us home with some cherry-vanilla bitters that she had made herself. Can't beat that with a stick.

I've been to SoBo several times, and I've encounter an item here or there that hasn't knocked me out, but I've never had a real failure there. I think this just comes from exploring more of the menu -- You're bound to find something that isn't up your alley eventually.

SoBo is great people and fantastic food. I also love that it's the best thing going in South Boulder.

The Kitchen Cafe, Boulder, CO

We just experienced The Kitchen for the first time last Saturday before we saw Henry Rollins in Boulder. I've known about it for quite some time now, but have never gone because until recently I've had an aversion for both Pearl Street and restaurants that require reservations be made days in advance. In the case of The Kitchen, it's well worth working through those aversions.

This time out, I started with a Talisker, an Islay single malt, neat while The Wife had a fruity grapefruit/lychee gin drink that was really delicious. For the first course we shared the roasted bone marrow. This was the first time trying bone marrow for both of us, and wow! Our server called it "like the best butter ever", but I'll stand by The Wife's "Colorado lobster" analogy. Our main courses were an incredible hanger steak with root vegetables for her and a pair of small but succulent lamb rump chops for me. To compliment the meat we took advantage of the wine prix fixe deal, having a full glass of a Loring pinot noir from Oregon first and and then switching to a half glass of Catena, an Argentinian malbec, to finish with a bolder note.

This place approaches the (probably unreasonable and unattainable) standard set by Park Kitchen in our minds. Well worth planning ahead for the experience.

Portland: More to come...

Just a note to self more than anything, but here's what you can look forward to hearing about as far as our trip to Portland, OR goes:

  1. Park Kitchen -- So good we went there twice.
  2. Kenny & Zuke's -- So good we never ate breakfast anywhere else.
  3. Gogol Bordello -- And the experience of an all ages show in Portland.
  4. The City of Portland -- We walked all over the place. It's tiny and awesome.

So stay tuned...


Side note: This is turning into the Autumn of Concerts for Team Sutton. To date, we've seen Spiritualized (which I have so far failed to write up, but was totally awesome) and Gogol Bordello; and soon we will see Fleet Foxes, DeVotchKa, and a spoken-word turn by Hank Rollins.


Oregon Trail

Tomorrow The Wife and I hope on a Frontier Airlines flight to Portland, OR. We've never been there and we don't have "people" there -- This is actually our first vacation with such a destination; we usually use vacations to visit friends/family. Needless to say, we're more than a little excited.

Our hotel is in the Pearl district, so we should have plenty to do and see, though we have almost no specific plans.

Watch the Flickr feed and Twitter for updates.

Awesome Things

Things that are awesome (some of which may have been previously mentioned here) in no particular order:

  • Sushi + beer + sake + friends = AWESOME
  • Live burlesque. Also, The Wife potentially taking burlesque classes. :D
  • Absinthe. I'm digging on Kübler, which is locally available now. Admittedly, I talk more people into not trying absinthe than I talk into trying it. It's not for everyone.
  • Rock Band. I'm pretty useless on anything except the singing, but it's more fun than Karaoke Revolution because the other people are playing along with you. Drumming is unpossible for me.
  • Tiki bars. Especially the Tiki Torch in Edgewater. I know one of the owners, so I'm psyched to give it a shot. I'll be toting The Wife and her mother down this Saturday, I believe. Daddy needs a Mai Tai with a quickness!
  • Anita O'Day. Holy crap! How have I never heard of her until now? Best thing to ever happen to me thanks to Plurk. (If you're not already a Twitter user, you might try Plurk instead.) Also loving Sarah Vaughn these days.
  • The Silent Years. The Globe comes out soon.
  • Going to the doctor to get my first physical in who knows how many years. It seems I'm doing well. (I still have to do blood work, though.)
  • Michael Phelps. Yeah... WOW.
  • The iPhone 3G. Lots of people gripe about various things, but in general I say it's damned amazing.
  • Dark Knight. Saw it on IMAX. It was pretty good.
  • Rumbi fish tacos. I'm stunned, but these are currently my favorite fish tacos.
  • Knowing one of the guys on the next season of The Ultimate Fighter.
  • Fuelly. All the cool kids are doing it.
  • Bumping into an acquaintance and having their first comment be "You look good."

And other stuff, too. That's a pretty good list for now, though.