31 December 2009

New Year's Eve Morning

Quiet before the storm.

28 December 2009

My Lilly P Nuts

I've been invited to a New Year's party. And I'm bringing my hot nuts (and the Golf Foxtrot). The guy having the party has some mighty fine nuts and his wife is a big fan of his nuts but I'm bringing heat this year. Real HEAT.

I've been going by the recipe in the 'Essentially Lilly" cook book for years. Well, ever since it came out in '04. Nice pictures of Lilly in that book. I swear I hit on her at the Conch House in St. Augustine, FL around 1983. She left me standing in the parking lot and waved goodbye as she drove off in a Rolls Corniche. I'm not sure it was her but my heart tells me it was.

If you're going to a party this week - - I suggest you bring your own nuts. Here's a great recipe from Lilly P's book with my alterations:

Half stick of unsalted butter (I've done this with salted and unsalted - didn't seem to matter)

1/2 C of sugar ( Cut Lilly's half cup in half. Is that a 1/4 cup? I dunno)
1/4 C of water (Again, half it)

1 tablespoon garam marsala (double it)

1/2 teaspoon salt (or not if using salted butter )

3 1/2 C Pecan halves (Make it 4C)

Melt the butter in a medium sauce pan and add the sugar, water, garam marsala and salt (or not) to the mix over medium heat while dissolving the sugar. For nuts with HEAT add-

1/2 tablespoon of cayenne

1 teaspoon chili powder

Reduce for a minute and dump your nuts in the sauce pan. Coat them as best you can. You may need help some help here. Once coated, spread your nuts on a glass baking dish and pop in a 350 degree oven turning the dish every five minutes for 15 minutes.

After taking your nuts out of the oven they'll need to cool. But before they get too cool you'll need to scrape your nuts up and toss them in a bowl. Then you're ready to bring your nuts to the party. If you did this right -- people are gonna be saying some nice things about your nuts. Somebody might say, "Hey, how do you walk with nuts like that? And you say, "Lilly taught me. Just before she left me in the Conch House parking lot."

24 December 2009

23 December 2009

Corporate Christmas Gift

The Christmas Tie

I worked for a man who gave Hermes ties and scraves to his clients every Christmas. Any left overs were thrown to the employees like table scraps. I never did get a left over but someone who did gave me his. This isn't a Hermes tie but I think it's a damned sight more interesting.

No idea who Doubl Glo was much less Jennings, Jones LTD. This tie was discovered in a St Augustine, FL thrift shop and was priced far too high at .50 cents. It's dirty and nicked up a bit. The candy canes are upside down and it's far too narrow. But I kind'a like it.

22 December 2009

The Eternal Three King's Burger



A Christmas tradition growing up was that can of the 1st King - Cougar Cheese. An uncle was a professor at Washington State and every relative must have been on his Christmas cheese list. I was surprised to receive a can as a gift this year and a little misty to see it in the same packaging. It's a rich and crumbly cheddar. Almost white and as sharp as an A Team leader's Randall. Not on the gourmet radar but at $18 a can it should be.

What is on the gourmet radar are these burgers. I've been a fan of cheap chuck, 70/30% fat, burgers for years but the La Frieda shortrib burger- the 2nd King - is pure art. Nutty with an aroma when it's cooking that reminds me of a Cuban cigar. It's a musty smell that wakes up the primal, 'I gotta kill something.' The minute they hit the pan I begin to salivate like the wolf in the three little pigs cartoon.

Lay on thinly sliced Cougar Cheddar and after 30 seconds stick it on the 3rd King - A Martin's potato bun. Almost sticky in it's dense moisture - it sucks up the blood from the burger and the oil from the cheese and is the perfect wrapper for the whole of this affordable luxury.

I may not be able to drink forever. I'm not going to be able to have sex forever. But I'm gonna be eating forever, at least my forever, and there's no reason to suffer while I'm doing it.

21 December 2009

"M" Magazine - Why Not A Different Dinner Jacket

I searched every October, November, December and January issue of "M" for the 'Why Not' feature of the tartan dinner jacket and nothing. Recently a reader asked me where he could find the August 1986 issue. When I pulled the issue I couldn't help but notice the ads and features were for winter clothing and wondered, "Why Not?" Flipped to the back and there it was.

20 December 2009

Tartan Nutcracker

Not sure I want this guy to come alive but I do need all the luck I can get this year.

19 December 2009

A Saturday Shave - Crema Sapone

Crema Sapone Shaving Soap

I thought this Italian shaving soap would come with its own bowl but no such luck. It looks like a large brick of snot but it smells like almonds and lathers up fast and rich. You tear off a piece and cram it into a bowl of your own. It's soft and very malleable. And this box looks like it'll last a couple years at least.

18 December 2009

Friday Belt: Pure Value Tartans

Leather Man Pure Wool Tartan Belt

Usquaebach (oos-ke-bah) Pure Highland Malt Scotch Whisky

We've established I like good value. I like to say I'm cheap and while there's some truth to that when it comes to buying toilet paper - - I'll pay a premium for something unique. What I live for is to find something unique and cheap. Here are two belts that fit that bill.

I called in an order to Leather Man Belts for some tartan ribbon belts. I'd been admiring them over a year and they're unique. I knew I could customise the webbing but didn't know I could request an odd numbered length instead of even. So I did. I asked the fella taking the order if he could do something unique for me that nobody else can get. He wants to know why and I tell him about the Friday Belt.

He says, "I'm working on something new. Let me send you a sample and I'll see if we can't find something - - You know- - Understated." I like this guy a lot and he tells me his name is Cecil and thanks me for the order. The day after the tartans arrive I get this belt up there with a nice letter from Cecil who turns out to be the owner. This is a wool tartan, understated and in an odd length. You just don't see belts like this everyday. And you sure as hell don't get a letter from the owner of a company everyday.

Usquaebach is an off the radar pure malt (as opposed to single) blend that was sold to me as a single malt but according to the bottle is a blend and I can't find out anything about it. It was cheap for a single malt (but not for a blend) and reminds me of the crazily expensive Midleton Irish Whiskey which is a blend. Very honey like mouth feel with the roundness that comes from a blend but a tiny bit of fire in the after taste. For some odd reason room temp Volvic water is my must-have bloomer for neat whisky and it's required here.

Usquaebach was sold to me by a straight arrow salesman. A no nonsense gentleman who suggested I give it a try when I wanted something almost double the price. Maybe the current economy has everyone looking for good value. Whether you're selling or buying...we can all sympathize.

17 December 2009

Georg Jensen Silver & My Gay Friends

Georg Jensen Bottle Opener

Perfect holiday gift for the black gay Jewish Republican on your list

Early last summer there was a Times piece about relationships between gay and straight men. Shortly after it ran, I was visiting college friends who commented about the number of gay friends I knew from school. It was late and as I stood up to leave I said, "Hey, don't knock my gay friends. It's the only time I get to play hard to get."

Back in the mid 80's, I'd complain to my girlfriend that the walk from my place to hers was impossible without getting hit on by gay men with little moustaches and tight fitting Izods. She made the observation that my tight fitting jeans, Timberland work boots, leather flight jacket and little moustache might have something to do with it. She was so observant I married her.

15 years later I was divorced and bidding on a piece of Georg Jensen silver when the auctioneer told me, "Sir, you're bidding against yourself." An expensive strategy but it was for the Golf Foxtrot and I had to have it. I ambled out of the auction house, Jensen pin in hand and walked east to Washington Square. It was a crisp autumn afternoon and I saw a sign for brunch outside an 18th century tavern.

The owner was an insane red head in her late 50's and she made the best bolognese. We talked and laughed and I showed her the pin while she poured my third glass of Umbrian red. She said she knew an antique's expert and if he came in she would point me out to him. She pointed and he knew a lot about silver. Enough to tell me I over paid. We talked about antiques and early 19th century portraits and he said, "Street's a hugely underrated artist. You have very good taste ... not that I'm flirting with you - - Well, maybe a little."

I turned to look at myself in the mirror behind the bar and thought, "Huh?" And it hit me. Staring straight ahead at the mirror I said, "You know, I'm sorry but I don't think I'm your type." He immediately called for his bill, signed it and left. I couldn't help but think, "Isn't that just like a man? Once he's figured out he's not getting in your pants, he's history."

When my father returned from Vietnam he was assigned to a National Guard unit in North Carolina and I had a friend who was black. Paul was not my first black friend but he was my first friend who was...lets call him effeminate. Odd because we were only 12. My parents taught me it was wrong to call people names based on ethnicity or religion but my father taught me you could be an asshole regardless of ethnicity or religion. He once said about an officer who had rumors following him --"I don't care if the man fucked Coke machines. He excelled at what he did on the battle field."

Paul was a good friend in a place that must have been a battle field for him. George Wallace stickers were as common as "We Reserve the Right to Serve" signs. Being black was tough enough. As an Army brat, I didn't have time to pick friends by their religion, sexual preference or politics. Consequently, some of my friends today are black gay Jewish Republicans and I wouldn't change a thing about them - - except that political party.

16 December 2009

Pierrepont Hick's Field Bow & Cocktail

I've never been gifted a bow tie - I've never invented a cocktail.

The folks at Pierrepont Hicks are some very nice folks. They gifted me their bow tie, the Field,which is made in NYC and sells for all of $59 . That ain't bad. I could swing $59 on my own but this affords me the chance to buy another belt.

A lot of men and David Sedaris won't wear bow ties and that's okay. Not everyone can pull them off. I didn't wear one until I was 44. I've made my stand about bow ties (and Sedaris) before so I'll just say the Field bow with the shantung silk backing is my new favorite. The green, blue and yellow with the orange really inspired me and I don't have an inspiration board. You gotta work for Ralph Lauren to have one of those.

So I invented a cocktail.

' The Pierrepont Hick's Field Stripper' is made from one part Manzanilla Sherry. One part Cointreau and a dash of Fee Brothers Orange Bitters. Add ice and stir. A lot. Get it cold before you try it. On the rocks or strain it into a martini glass and add a slice of orange. This is what the Field bow tastes like to me. Subtle St. Augustine oranges floated on a Chapel Hill green forest of pine trees and everyone's naked except for yellow cashmere socks.

If your boyfriend, husband or partner wears a bow tie - - this is a great present. I like the Giles bow too. If they don't like bow ties - - don't waste your time. But they just might like this cocktail.

15 December 2009

My FU Club Tie...

Photo of Tintin by Mr Mort

...and my sling belt and my jacket and my pink Brooks Bros shirt and my Duck Heads and my Rock. Good thing my fingernails are clean.

Mr Mort took this shot of me at The Pop Up and I have to find it on someone else's blog? Like, dude? I don't rate your blog?

14 December 2009

WW II Duffle Coat

Criterion's DVD of The Third Man has some amazing extras and a load time of two days. Trevor has a nice roll to his sleeves.

I know friends of mine will call me Paddington Bear but I just don't care.

Seven pounds. Like wearing weights on your ankles

51 pounds without shipping. That's not how much it weighs although it feels like it. Not long ago it was rare to see a duffle with rope and wood toggles. They're everywhere now. I admit to not liking that. I also admit to being cheap and so I went looking for something different.

I had heard that WWII surplus duffel coats could be had several years ago. There was a mysterious dealer somewhere in the 'burbs of Chicago who had a supply but I never found them. I found a Navy Duffel with rope and wood toggles on sale for $99. There's a subtle window pane check but it was close enough for government work.

But this is the real deal found on U.K. eBay. At seven pounds, the shipping from the U.K. was more than the coat but for me it's a bargain. Made by the Redman Bros in 1943, it's a size 1 which I understand is the smallest size and it's huge. No pocket flaps. No lining. Nothing sophisticated here. Just a solid plank of wool that is overkill for the coldest NYC winter day. It's the SUV of duffle coats and it stands in contrast to the China made ersatz being fobbed off today.

Do you have more brains than money? Go here for a nice selection of authentic used duffles available in the states. Nothing from WW II but nice coats under $65.

I found this amazing interview with a cutter from Redman Brothers. I love these oral histories. They're dense but I read insurance policies for a living so this is cake. Looks like Redman went belly up in 1985 despite some glory years in the 50's and 60's. While I have no idea if my duffle saw service on the North Atlantic - - And I doubt it did due to the shape it's in - - I did enjoy reading about the history of the town where it was made and the building it was made in. Even the place for pies in town.

Suther’s shop and Stansfield’s shop – they were both general stores but they made dinners, pies. Stansfield’s only made them on a Friday and they only made pie & peas, but Suther’s made a range; he’d do steak pudding and peas and mashed potatoes, he’d do pie and peas, he didn’t do chips – the chip shops did chips, but on a Sunday he’d do a roast dinner and at Christmas he’d do a Christmas dinner.

You can imagine these factories – he was making a lot of dinners for [incomp] and they used to give you commission for going to their shop you see, and t’fish shop used to give you…I can’t remember, I think it were so much in t’shilling or so much in t’pound and I could make more money because I were getting this on t’side for my pocket money, so I were all right. I used to be able to cheat a bit – if t’pies were fourpence ha’penny you could charge fivepence but unfortunately one week I got found out because I were off for a day when t’pies went up to fivepence from fourpence ha’penny and t’guy told ‘em, and they said ‘we’ve been paying fivepence for t’last six months’ so I were in trouble!

12 December 2009

Formal Week: The Tartan Dinner Jacket

Tartan Dinner Jacket from 1944

Altered by Chris Despos of Chicago

Pattern matching at pocket

I have to admit this wasn't the tartan I went looking for. I really wanted a subtle Black Watch but they're hard to find and this appeared on eBay just when I needed it. It was listed as a 44 Long so I had bespoke tailor Chris Despos of Chicago take a look at it. Chris doesn't do alterations anymore but he did me a favor and shortened it.

The wool is whisper light and perfect for a hot and crowded charity auction. I did get a lot of ribbing at the auction. I thought I might. It was Chicago after all but I had this sense of wearing history. Chris had found a tag putting the jacket's manufacture at 1944. I can't find it now but I know it's in there somewhere. It really doesn't matter. I know and that's enough. Tomorrow we'll wrap this up with formal accessories.

11 December 2009

WW II Duffel Coat

Details on Monday.

Formal Week: The Belted Smoking Jacket

I was told many years ago that life's luxuries quickly become necessities. Never was that more true than when I went through a discounted case of La Conseillante in less than a month. I had plenty of other wine but I just couldn't see the point. Not with a Pomerol staring at me. "Hey!" I would think to myself, "I could be dead tomorrow."

But times have changed. We have two wars going and the economy is... I don't have to tell you what it is. Nick Sullivan wrote in Esquire's Fall Black Book that the sale of pocket squares plummeted in the last year and I'm doing a week of smoking and dinner jackets. Impeccable timing.

This is a belted smoking jacket from Italy. They're a common site in the better haberdashery and they're not cheap. Around $900 to a $1,000. So who is gonna plop down a grand for something they may never wear more than a handful of times? That's a good question. Better than that, it's what we call in sales a buyer's objection. I'll try to over come it:

1. The Tuxedo Option:
It takes some stones to wear this out of one's home but it can be done. Unless Bruce Boyer is at the party who's gonna call you on it? The bow tie is a gift from Pierrepont Hicks. The cuff links were not a gift and were purchased at an auction in Chicago. All the accessory stuff for Formal Week will be covered Sunday after tomorrow's Tartan dinner jacket.

2. Home Entertaining:
A little luxe in the privacy of your own home is not a bad thing. The at-home holiday party in black tie is elegant and fun. The wine is better. The food is better and the cost is better. Plus, it's always interesting to see your neighbors in something other than cargo shorts and hair curlers. This is the jacket you wear as host.

3. The Robe:
With this option you can wear it every day. Over pajamas or over nothing.

4. The Girl Friend's Robe
Nothing looks better on a woman than a smoking jacket and only a smoking jacket.

Lastly, I ask you to consider 18th century clothing. Very little of what people wore daily 200 years ago is still around. What is around are the ceremonial coats, vests and dresses that were worn once and put away. A smoking jacket may not help your bottom line today but it could mean a new house addition for your great- great - grandson.