Story time with Mickey D

This morning as I was reading the news I was greeted by this chuckle-inducing headline:

#McDStories, McDonald’s Twitter Hashtag Promotion, Goes Horribly Wrong

As with most people I love a good PR FAIL story, and this one’s a doozy. Last Wednesday McDonald’s sent out two tweets on their Twitter feed — only two — to spark a new marketing campaign. One of them went like this:

@McDonalds Meet some of the hard-working people dedicated to providing McDs with quality food every day #McDStories

Unfortunately, many many people leapt onto this hashtag, and their tweets tended to look like this:

@Cate_Storm #McDStories I just read that McDonalds chicken nuggets have a foaming agent in them, similar to products used for building materials

It made me think of my own recent McD story.

I must confess that I do like their fries, frozen and processed as they are. One good example of how freshly-cut French fries aren’t necessarily all they’re cracked up to be is my beloved In-N-Out Burger. Now, I love me a Double Double (Animal Style, no pickles, ketchup instead of spread), but let’s face it … their fries stink. Everybody who knows how to fry a potato knows that you have to cook the potatoes TWICE, first a blanch in low temperature oil to cook the potato all the way through, then a few minutes in higher temperature oil to get them golden and crispy on the outside. The fries can be frozen in between these two steps, so the frozen fries that go into the fryer at McDonald’s area already partially cooked. In-N-Out cuts the potato, dumps them right into the fryer only once and then out, usually resulting in limp, unsatisfying fries. But I digress.

Other than the occasional breakfast McMuffin at the airport maybe twice a year, I don’t eat McDonald’s food. I don’t eat the fries, since I’m almost never in there, and I certainly don’t eat the burgers. I used to, though — way back in my youth, I was quite the fan of the Quarter Pounder with Cheese.

Jules: 'You know what they call a Quarter Pounder with cheese in France?' Brett: 'No.' Jules: 'Tell 'im, Vincent.' Vincent: 'A Royale with Cheese.' Jules: 'A Royale with Cheese. You know why they call it that?' Brett: '... because of the metric system?' Jules: 'Check out the big brain on Brett!  You're a smart motherfucker.'

Big Macs never did anything for me, and their plain hamburgers and cheeseburgers seemed rather insubstantial. My regular order, though, was a Quarter Pounder with Cheese, large fries, large iced tea, for years. (And of course, they never ever look like the above image in real life.)

These days I try not to eat burgers all that often — although I love them, they don’t love me. Once a week at the most, and maybe even once every two weeks. This means that if I’m going to have a burger, I’m going to make it count. That means that I’m going to get my burger in a quality, independently-owned burger joint or in a restaurant that does a good burger. (Note that I don’t count In-N-Out as a typical fast food burger, as their quality is a lot higher than the national chains; the meat is always fresh, never frozen with no ammoniated pink slime mixed in, and if you order the fries well-done or “lightly well” they’re better than the garden variety fries. I will give them points for freshness.) No Burger King, no Wendy’s and certainly no McDonald’s. Pie ‘n Burger. The Counter. The Oinkster. Umami Burger. Or in one of our favorite restaurants, like Bar | Kitchen. You get the idea.

Sometimes, though, a sailor must seek any port in a storm. Last time I traveled to Houston to visit family I had to fly back through Dallas-Fort Worth airport on a night when the weather was bad. I had barely more than enough time to make my connection, and just as I was about to hop on their intra-airport monorail a huge clap of thunder and bolt of lightning struck, and the train went down. I then had to slog a very long way through that ridiculously large airport to get to my gate, only to find that all flights were suspended due to weather. It was late, I was starving, I had no idea when the weather would let me get home, and every single food vendor in that terminal was closed … except McDonald’s.

Yeah, I know, they have apple and walnut salads now, but I didn’t want a godsdamned salad, I wanted something substantial, so I went back to my old college standby of the Quarter Pounder with Cheese.

I’ve lost count of the number of years since I’d had one, and for the record it tasted exactly the same as I remembered.

Only now it tasted awful.

I’ve spent the last umpty-ump years being spoiled by quality meat, it seems. I could barely choke that feckin’ thing down.

I tried to condense my wordy story into 140 characters so that I could offer my own entry to the #McDStories hashtag festival. I find Twitter’s now-arbitrary 140-character limit to be annoying and frustrating, but I got the point across. I’ve also resolved never to eat another McDonald’s hamburger, unless it’s the only thing standing between me and the fellow airline passenger who might find me gnawing on his arm. You have my promise, McDonald’s — I won’t resort to cannibalism as long as you’re there.

Now, to plan my next burger. I’m thinking maybe Golden State or The Burger Kitchen at some point, but those are a bit far to drive. This Friday. Before “Fringe.” Pie ‘n Burger. Yeah.


Ragusa Brothers King Cakes 2012, No. 2

After that little teaser, we finally get going into Carnival season with some King Cakes! Get ready for Larry Ragusa’s latest King Cake special … that is, if Marie lets it out of the door.

Uh oh, Marie doesn’t look happy. I suspect we’ll be seeing Vincent soon. And then there’s Angelina … as my friend Peter described her, “the modern day Mona Lisa, with that enigmatic smile.”


Shit Bartenders Mixologists Say

Okay, before anyone gets their drawers in a wad … it’s a perfectly good word, and I’m not going to bowdlerize it with asterisks or substitute something* like “shoot.” If I did your mind would still fill in the actual word; as George Carlin wisely said, “‘Shoot’ is ‘shit’ with two ‘O’s.” Now … let’s move on.

There’s been a meme going around YouTube, Facebook and other segments of the Intarnets lately: videos entitled something like “Shit __________ Say.” Fill in the blank with guys, girls, single girls, black girls, gay guys, vegans, project managers … you name it. I’ve been ignoring most of them, until one came along that I couldn’t ignore. Because maybe 50 of my friends have forwarded this around, and … because it’s hilarious.

Those of you who are bartenders or cocktail geeks, c’mon … I suspect you’ve been caught saying at least one, and probably more, of these things. Ladies and gentlemen, I bring you “Shit Bartenders Say.”

(“I’m a mixologist.“)

Er, sorry.


Adding some icing to that cake, mixologist bartender Derek Brown, proprietor of The Passenger in Washington, D.C., ran some “Shit Bartenders Mixologists Say” cocktail specials the other night …

Photo courtesy of Derek Brown. Click to embiggen.

Brilliant. The fourth one nearly made me spray my tasty beverage onto my monitor.

I love how the community is serious about what we do, but don’t take ourselves too seriously. Now, would you care for a drink? Hey, I’m really into amaro …


(* – Why is it that you can say “crap” on TV but you can’t say “shit?” They mean exactly the same thing. Sigh. People are so stupid.)


The Return of Larry Ragusa (and his brother Vincent)

Happy New Year! Happy oh-twelve!*

Okay, I know it’s nineteen days into the new Year and most people are done wishing others a happy new year, but if any of you know anything about me at all it’s that I’m the God Emperor of Procrastination. However, I have in fact resolved to write and post more this year, and in a more timely manner. Let’s get going!

Almost two weeks ago was Twelfth Night, the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas and the beginning of Carnival season. And you know what Carnival means — revelry, parades, Carnival balls, and … King Cakes! You know the tradition, don’t you? King Cakes are served only during Carnival season, and if you get the little plastic baby inside your piece of cake you’re obliged to throw the next King Cake party. When you think of the finest in New Orleans King Cakes, a few major names come to mind: Manny Randazzo’s, Haydel’s, Gambino’s, and of course … the Ragusa Brothers, Larry and Vincent.

When last we left the Ragusa family — Larry, maker extraordinaire of … er, odd King Cakes, his wife Angelina, his estranged brother Vincent and sister-in-law Marie –there was some serious squabbling going on. You will be thrilled and delighted to know the brothers have reconciled! (Kinda.) Here’s a teaser for 2012′s season of commercials for Larry Ragusa King Cakes Ragusa Brothers King Cakes!

More to come soon … stay tuned. If you missed last year’s run of the commercials for Larry Ragusa King Cakes, catch up — one, two, three, four.)

(* – After overhearing people refer to recent years as “oh-ten” and “oh-twelve,” we cannot help but laugh and immediate appropriate this usage. I suppose “oh-thirteen” isn’t really going to work, so enjoy it while you can.)

Cocktail of the Day: Dubonnet Royal

I have to wonder if Dubonnet Rouge is the red-headed stepchild of aromatized wines these days. It just doesn’t seem to get the attention it once did, and that it deserves now.

I love redheads, by the way.

Dubonnet, if you’re not familiar, is a fortified apéritif wine along similar lines as vermouth, and comes in white and red expressions (rouge and blanc, but not a “dry” version as with vermouth). The vast majority of the time when someone refers to Dubonnet they are referring to Dubonnet Rouge. It’s similar to sweet vermouth, although a fair bit sweeter, with fruitier notes, and it’s very slightly more bitter. Dubonnet Rouge does contain quinine, although I don’t detect a whole lot of it on my palate. The sweetness tends toward a ruby port, although not as richly flavored, and one article compared it to sangria, “with a heavier mouthfeel and a spicier aroma.”

Dubonnet was created in 1846 by a Parisian wine merchant and chemist named Joseph Dubonnet, “as a means to make quinine more palatable for the soldiers battling malaria in North Africa.” Still made in France, but for the American market it’s made in Kentucky by the Heaven Hill distillery. There are those who say the American-made product is inferior to the European one. I’ve never tried it in Europe myself, but my pal Martin Doudoroff (who has an excellent site called Vermouth 101 all about vermouth, quinquinas, americanos and other fortified wines) remarked that “[t]he flavor profile is basically the same as the Kentucky edition and it isn’t dramatically more bitter (maybe a touch—it’s still pretty mild stuff in comparison to, say, Bonal) but it’s also clearly a more carefully wrought product. I guess I’d describe the European product as a little move vital and alive.”

I’m quite fond of Dubonnet Rouge myself, and with the proper adjustments I enjoy swapping it in for sweet vermouth for a nice change of pace. It’s lovely in a Dubonnet Cocktail, half and half with gin (one of the preferred tipples of the late Queen Mother, who in her later eyars was probably tipsy all day long, bless her). We also stumbled across this one in the long out-of-print Café Royal Cocktail Book; it’s also up on CocktailDB.

The original recipe called for orange Curaçao, but given the sweetness of the Dubonnet Wesly decided to go for a slightly drier orange liqueur, the excellent triple sec Combier. Cointreau would also work well.

The original recipe, as with so many recipes of its era, also called for precise proportions yet were vague on exact amounts. It read “2/3 Dubonnet, 1/3 gin, 2 dashes each orange Curaçao and Angostura bitters, dash of absinthe on top.” Given some other instructions gleaned from the preface as well as the typical cocktail size of the time, I’m guessing that he was making 2 to 2-1/2 ounce cocktails. I’ve tried to adjust this slightly for the slightly larger cocktails we tend to drink these days, but by all means make the nice little two-ouncers, especially if you have great little tiny vintage cocktail glasses in your collection. Make those proportions 1 to 1/2, otherwise …

I tweeted this recipe after Wesly made this for us one night, and my friend Maitri, who was at the bar at the wonderful Anvil Bar & Refuge in Houston drinking at the time, read it to our pal Chris Frankel, who was behind the stick that night. Chris thought it sounded good and made one for Maitri on the spot. Good gods, I love the Internets.

Photo by Maitri Erwin, used with her kind permission. Drink made by Chris Frankel at Anvil Bar & Refuge, Houston


(collected by W. J. Tarling, American Bar, Café Royal, London, 1937)

1-1/2 ounces Dubonnet Rouge
3/4 ounce London dry gin
1 barspoon Combier Liqueur d’Orange
3 dashes Angostura bitters
1 dash absinthe
1 Luxardo cherry

Combine the first four ingredients with ice in a mixing glass and stir for 20-30 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail coupe. Top with the dash of absinthe and garnish with the cherry.

Wililam J. Tarling was the head bartender of London’s sadly long-lost Café Royal as well as president of the United Kingdom Bartenders’ Guild, and in 1937 compiled a wonderful book of recipes invented by himself, his fellow Café Royal bartenders as well as other members of the UKBG. He was also a good, charitable fellow, as evidenced by this preface to the edition:

ALL Royalties derived by W. J. Tarling from this book are to be equally divided between the United Kingdom Bartenders’ Guild Sickness Benefit Fund and the Café Royal Sports Club Fund.

The book has been out of print for decades, and was quite hard to find for a long time. As with many of the great old out-of-print cocktail books I own, this one was brought to my attention by the inimitable Ted “Dr. Cocktail” Haigh, who once again sent me scrambling across the Internets in search of a near-extinct tome. My search became fruitful when I finally got not one but two hits on — one in decent condition and perfectly readable condition, with a weathered and cracked but intact dust jacket even, for $25; the other was a pristine edition, autographed by the author, for $25,000.

After careful consideration I chose the former.

Fortunately Mixellany Books, in conjunction with the UKBG, has produced a facsimile edition, which you really should get:


Page 5 of 97« First...34567...102030...Last »