The traditional gift is china, or diamonds, but we opted for foam.

New Mattress

Let me back up.

Twenty years ago, my mom and dad bought a mattress for Xy and me, a wedding present.

This year, as an anniversary gift to each other, we got ourselves a new mattress. That’s right, we slept on the same mattress for twenty years. It served us well in its day, but that day is past, long past. There was a deep trough where my body used to lie, and we’d flipped and rotated all we could.

It was time for something new. So we got a Sleep Innovations 12-Inch SureTemp Memory Foam Mattress.

It’s awesome, and it was affordable. Many thanks to Brother O’Mara for the recommendation, and for letting us come over to his house and roll around on his bed.

Interestingly enough, this mattress comes with a twenty year warranty. So maybe this will last us until our 40th anniversary.

We promised each other that this mutual gift would fulfill our gifting obligations with regard to our anniversary, but I couldn’t resist one little surprise. I knew that Xy would check her laptop first thing in the morning. I left her a note that said “please check your email.” In her inbox she found a message that said “please watch this video.”

And then she saw this.

NSFW, probably. No one ever saw this video before. It was just sitting on a tape in a shoebox in the closet. Xy had certainly forgotten all about it. But I knew it was there, and I knew this would be the perfect time to edit it up.

I’d had some vague thought that a ten-year follow-up would interesting, but I seem to have lost interest in cocktails.

Sporting Chance

Probably the biggest surprise for me on this vacation was just how prosperous Bloomington seemed. (More on that later.) If I had any doubts on this front, they were laid to rest by my visit to The Rail.

Contemporary craft cocktails and tapas — in Bloomington? I was impressed. And I was even more impressed when it came out that our bartender, Colin Boilini, had won a contest with Tales of the Cocktail. They’ll be bringing him down here to New Orleans next week.

Naturally we commanded Mr. Boilini to prepare for us his award-winning cocktail — which he did.
Continue reading “Sporting Chance”

Date Nite

Last night for the first time ever we left our daughter with a babysitter and had a fun night out on the town.

Actually it was a double date. We went over to Sue and Steve’s house just as the babysitter Althea arrived. (Not to be confused with my former co-worker, this Althea has done a lot of babysitting for Sue and Steve’s two boys.) She took Persephone from my arms right there on the sidewalk. When she went in the house, Sue suggested Xy and I not even go inside, so we didn’t. I was worried Persephone would have a meltdown when we left, but this way there was no drama.

Soon we were sitting down at Crescent City Steak House. I ordered a Negroni for a preprandial apéritif. (I guess that’s redundant.) I had to explain the ingredients to the waitress. Steve said he’d take one as well. Unfortunately the bartender didn’t seem to know this drink, so we got them on the rocks and garnished with lemon, but it was still pretty good. We all got rib eyes and shared a bottle of Malbec, and I had coffee and cognac for desert.

After dinner we walked down Broad to the Zulu HQ, where there was a fundraiser for Morris Jeff Community School, a public school that’s planning to open next year in our neighborhood. I’d never been to Zulu before, so that was a treat in and of itself, but even better, my favorite New Orleans musician Kermit Ruffins was playing.

I didn’t have my camera with me, but here’s a picture I took of Kermit seven years ago:


We had a couple drinks at the club and enjoyed the music. I ran into a number of people I knew. In fact I saw a few friends at the steakhouse as well, all of which added to the convivial spirit of the evening.

Pretty soon it was all over. We headed back, retrieved the girl, who seemed to have had a fine time, and went home to bed. All in all, a great evening. A restorative evening. I thought leaving our daughter with a babysitter would be more a more worry-fraught proposition, but it was all extremely smooth and relaxing. Hooray!

Update: My friend Robert Caldwell reminded me that a Negroni is indeed traditionally served on the rocks. My bad. The classic garnish is supposed to be a burnt orange, but I didn’t really expect that.

Tales of the Cocktail: Day One

Somehow I wangled a press pass to Tales of the Cocktail. I’ve always wanted to attend this event, and if you have even a passing familiarity with ROX you’ll understand why. Tales of the Cocktail is without doubt the world’s most important conference on the subject of the mixed drink. And since mixed drinks are perhaps America’s most important contribution to global culture, that’s saying something. And people come from all over the world to attend this event right here in New Orleans, the birthplace of the cocktail.

I’ve always wanted to check it out. But it always seemed to sneak up on me, and I would find myself entangled with other engagements or on vacation and unable to attend. This year I made sure my calendar was marked well in advance. And as I mentioned, I scored a press pass despite my lack of mainstream media credentials, on the strength of this blog.

So today I was at the Hotel Monteleone bright and early. I sat in on a seminar, tasted numerous cocktails, rubbed elbows with the mixological elite, and generally soaked in the ambiance of this fine event.

The Bittersweet Truth of Starting a Bar

I began my day with a seminar: “The Bittersweet Truth of Starting a Bar.” It was fairly interesting, but clearly geared toward people with a serious interest in starting a cocktail bar. I have little interest in such a venture, so it was probably not a good choice on my part. (Did you know your lease should be no more than 6% of your total sales revenue?) However, I was delighted to learn that most of the seminars appear to feature mixed drinks. We were served a Winter Sour, basically a Campari Sour with rosemary syrup. It was foamy and tart and garnished with a sprig of rosemary — delicious.

I frequented a number of tastings throughout the day. I had something at the Cocktail Fresh Market made with organic vodka. I had a São Paolo Sour made with Cabana Cachaça and whiskey and egg white and bitters. I had a cucumber-flavored concoction made with mezcal and garnished with cilantro.

James Has a Cocktail

All of these diverse drinks had one thing in common: They all had subtle flavors which might appeal to a sophisticated palate.

What makes this conference unique is that everyone’s walking around in a perpetual state of mild intoxication. I hasten to stress that qualifier, mild. Don’t get the wrong idea. While I’m sure most people were copping a buzz, no one was inebriated. Drinks were generally served in thimble-sized servings, which is the right size if you plan on sampling all day long.

Ann Tuennerman

In the early afternoon there was a special event, a toast to kick off the seventh annual iteration of this festival, and also to honor the fact that Herbsaint is now 75 years old. I recorded this, but as my general ineptitude would have it, my batteries ran out just seconds before the actual culminating toast itself.

Here’s the almost-complete audio: Tales of the Cocktail 2009 Toast [mp3]

I guess that’s why I don’t get paid for this.

As for the toasting beverage, we had a choice between an Herbsaint Frappé and a Creole Julep. I opted for the latter since it is the official cocktail of the festival.

Creole Juleps

Here’s the recipe:

The Creole Julep
Created by Maksym Pazuniak, Rambla/Cure

2 1/4 oz. Cruzan Single Barrel Estate Rum
1/2 oz. Clement Créole Shrubb
1/4 oz. Captain Morgan 100 Rum
2 dashes Fee Bros. Peach bitters
2 dashes Angostura bitters
8-10 mint leaves
1 Demerara Sugar Cube

Muddle sugar, Créole Shrubb and both bitters until sugar is dissolved in a 10 oz. tall glass. Add mint and press to express oils. Add cracked ice. Add Cruzan and Captain Morgan 100 and stir until frost appears on outside of glass. Garnish with mint sprig.

Mmmm. Good. And strong too.

Well, after all that I was feeling pretty mellow, so I decided to kick back in the Monteleone’s famous Carousel Bar and check out Chef and the Fatman. I scored a really nice whiskey glass, with some Bulleit Bourbon in it. Chef Gus Martin of Muriel’s prepared a shrimp dish that smelled delicious, and I could have sampled some, but tragically enough shrimp no longer agrees with me.

For those who might be put off by the price of some of the ticketed events, I’d like to point out that everything mentioned above, with the exception of the seminar, was free.

There was plenty more to see and do, but I’d had a full day so I decided to head home. Only at the door I noticed they were serving cocktails made with St-Germain Liqueur. This is an elderflower cordial which I had never tasted before. They mixed it with dry champagne and (I think maybe) some club soda. It was light and refreshing and provided the perfect end to my day.

Now I’ve got to get some rest because tomorrow looks like an awfully big day. I think a big breakfast will help.

Introducing the Michael Dee Cocktail

Here’s a light and refreshing summery citrusy cocktail, invented by my father-in-law, and tested rather extensively by yours truly over the last couple days.

In a rocks glass full of ice, mix 1.5 oz of light rum, a splash of limeade, a splash of lemon-lime seltzer, and the juice from a quarter lime. Float 1.5 oz Cointreau on top.


Cointreau Martini

Problem: You’re winding down a long day and would like to enjoy a nightcap. But when you get to the liquor cabinet you are confronted with an alarming situation: All the liquor is gone. No bourbon, no scotch, no vodka, no gin, no cognac, no tequila. (Apparently you drank all those.) It’s too late to run to the store. All you have is a variety of sweet liqueurs. Yuck!

Solution: The Cointreau Martini. Two ounces of Cointreau, the juice of one lime, shaken with ice and strained. Mmmm. The tartness of the lime offsets the sweet orange flavor of the liqueur. Every bit as good as a Gin Rickey. Top off with seltzer and you could call it a Cointreau Rickey.

This is very much a brand-specific cocktail. I suspect the reason it works so well is that Cointreau is about twice as potent as a typical triple sec liqueur. Now if they could only get their labor situation straight in Haiti.


It may seem ridiculous, but I gave up alcohol for Lent. Even though I’m not Christian, I find something ever-so-slightly appealing in the idea. I like to break my habits. It’s not just for the sake of my innate perversity; breaking habits is refreshing. Plus not drinking for forty days might even be healthy.

Yesterday was day number ten. Xy and I went out for a fine dinner at Tommy’s Cuisine, a relatively new restaurant which is located right underneath our old apartment in Julia Place. The host seated us and asked if we wanted anything to drink.

“Can they make a Sazerac?” I asked.

The host winked at me. “The best in the city.”

Totally habitual. It wasn’t until the drink arrived that I remembered I was on a sobriety binge. But I was too embarrassed to send it back, and too cheap to let it go to waste. So I drank it.

What the hell, I had two. They were good.

I don’t take the Lenten thing to seriously, but I wish I’d remembered. Ah well. Today, I’m back on the wagon.



Xy and I had dinner at Ralph’s on the Park. I think we just celebrated our 11th anniversary, albeit a couple or three weeks early.

A bottle of Gewürztraminer, Oysters Ralph, steamed mussels and fennel, roasted duckling, garlic chicken, pineapple crisp, theobroma, espresso… It literally brought tears to my eyes. It was that good.

(But remind me not to order the Ojen Cocktail again. Not a fan of the anise-flavored liqueurs. This particular potable is said to be a hangover cure, though, so I’ll keep it in mind for ROX #92.)