Archive for June 2012

It’s Time for Dodger Baseball!   1 comment

I fell in love with baseball listening to Jack Buck broadcast the St Louis Cardinals.  I would lay on my bed in the dark, looking out my window at the starry sky, and let the sounds of the crickets and my AM transistor radio take me away.  What a team the Cardinals had!  Lou Brock, Orlando Cepeda, Bob Gibson.…

When we relocated to SoCal, my new adopted team, of course, had to be the Dodgers.  And all of Los Angeles is blessed with their announcer, who has been spinning stories for Dodger fans since 1950.  Yes, this is Vin Scully’s 63rd year broadcasting Dodger baseball.

Vin is 84 years old, and he’s cut his schedule back so he only does games in California and Arizona.  He does have some senior moments.  He confuses names now and again.  But his pipes are sound, his vocabulary is unequaled in sports broadcasting, and his fans adore him.  Of COURSE the Dodgers have a bobble head giveaway for him this year; he is more beloved than the players.  To paraphrase Babe Ruth, he’s having a better year.

You may have heard Vin doing CBS NFL games in the 70s and 80s, or NBC MLB games in the 80s.  You may even remember him as the announcer in Kevin Costner’s best baseball film, “For Love of the Game.”  Vin paints pictures with words, and brings games to life on radio and TV.

His play-by-play is great, but it’s the stories and thoughts that he weaves through the games that make him a hall of fame announcer.

Against the Giants 6/28, Top of the 4th:

“Interesting statistical note; we were talking about the fact that the Giants have had 121, and this will be 122 consecutive sellouts, so a sellout means 42,000 and change, right?  OK, the Giants say their home attendance averages 41,000 … so you say, ‘So how does that work?’ ”

Against the Mets, 6/29, bottom of the 1st:

In a discussion of the NY Mets’ starting pitcher, Chris Young, who is 6’-10” tall – and not the tallest player on the Mets’ roster! –

“If there are youngsters watching the ballgame, they might ask you the question, and in case you don’t have the answer, we’ll be happy to give it to you.  … Who was the tallest person in history?  … The tallest person was Robert Pershing Wadlow, born in Alton, IL, and he was 8’11”. … Just in case anybody asks you ….”

Also 6/29, bottom of the 4th, as the Dodgers break a 33-inning scoreless streak, their longest since 1962:

“Ring the bell, alert the orchestra, the Dodgers score on a triple by Tejada!”

(note the triple was by Herrera, not Tejada … who was the Met making the relay throw, not the hitter.  But the alliteration was better the way Vin called it.)

To watch Dodger baseball is to hear a master at work.  Do yourself a favor and listen to him this season.  We may not hear his kind again for a very long time.

Posted June 29, 2012 by henrymowry in Sports

Tagged with , , , ,

Are You Polite?   Leave a comment

According to some, I’m very rude.  Surprised?  Me, Mr. Nice Guy, Mr. Eagle Scout, Mr. Yes, Ma’am, Mr. Holding Doors Open … me?  Rude?

Now, it’s true that I sell things for a living.  I’ve sold a lot of things … from signs on roller coasters to accordion lessons.  And as a seller, I’ve made countless cold calls.  I’ve intruded into people’s lives to persuasively present opportunities to them.  I always courteously listen to them.

Not interested?  I understand.  Don’t want me to call you again?  No problem.

A couple of weeks ago, I called a business owner crazy person who went off on me about my daring to call and speak with his staff.  Crazy person.  I forgive him (and he is now on my blacklist).

Today, I called a business manager who apologized for not calling me back after I called him twice, emailed him twice, sent him a letter….  He apologized to ME, and I was truly touched.  He didn’t owe me anything … he did not owe me a call back.  But calling me back would have been polite, no doubt.

Are you polite?

Posted June 28, 2012 by henrymowry in Living Life, Selling

Tagged with , ,

Results: The First Big Taste Test   2 comments

  1. Don Celso Reposado  **
  2. Lunazul Blanco **
  3. 3 Amigos Reposado **
  4. El Tesoro de Don Felipe Reposado  **
  5. Marquez de Valencia Reposado  **
  6. Herradura Reposado
  7. 7 Leguas Reposado
  8. Muchote Reposado
  9. Sol de Mexico Tequila Reposado   **
  10. Gran Centenario
  11. KAH Tequila Reposado
  12. Casa Noble Reposado
  13. 1800 Reserva Reposado

DNS/DNF

  • Jose Cuervo Gold
  • Reserva del Maestro Dobel Diamond
  • Pueblo Viejo Reposado

Remember our goal is to find the perfect tequila for the perfect margarita.  Three of the tequilas in the bottom half of the ratings are very highly recommended:  Muchote, KAH and Casa Noble are all tasty.  My working theory is they just don’t play well with others.

The surprise of the First Big Taste Test was the dark horse winner, Don Celso Reposado.  Not only did Don Celso have the best rating over all, it also got 4 clear first place votes from the 11 judges.  No other tequila got more than 1 first place vote.

Another clear winner was Lunazul (I love visual puns the best).  Lunazul is relatively inexpensive, so this tequila is the obvious early favorite to take the crown for “Recommended for Big Parties!”  It did get 1 first place vote.

3 Amigos (1 first place vote) and El Tesoro were small surprises; neither had impressed in the preliminary tastings, but they did rise to the top when they needed to!

Two tequilas surprised that they were not rated higher.

Marquez de Valencia Reposado is very  highly recommended, and we had to drive many miles just to buy it.  I expected more!

Sol de Mexico was distinguished in the early tastings … I wholly expected that this would be my favorite in the taste test.  ‘twas not to be, but I’m keeping it in the competition to see if our initial tastings were right or wrong.

Our taste test, our rules.

After some discussions, we’ve decided to take those 6 tequilas (marked with **) on to the next round as we search for the perfect ingredients, the perfect recipe … the perfect margarita.

Going Away   4 comments

When you work, work.  When you’re not at work … you need to go away, and not live your life for work.

We’re all on a shorter tether than we used to be.  Smartphones are ubiquitous, and family, friends, peers and customers all expect quick answers.  And by quick, I mean … within minutes.  You don’t win points for a response to a loved one that’s 4 hours after you first got the text.  4 minutes is OK.  40 minutes is annoying.  4 hours is just not OK.  (Kids: I’m working on it.  Honest.)

Last weekend, Velda & I went away to San Diego to attend a wedding.  Stress had hit us both leading up to this weekend escape, so it was very important that we get away.  That we could enjoy the most romantic of ceremonies with the family and friends of two lovely people is surely one of the best reasons to leave work behind and go away!

  • No Schedule
  • No Plan
  • No Worries

I had looked for some restaurants that would perhaps lead us into the right mood, and after some “in the moment” research, we decided to go to Crazee Burger.  It’s been featured on the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives,” and we hoped it would be our kind of place.

The food was great.  I had tatonka; Velda had the daily special.  All good … but that was just the beginning.

I knew that we had achieved our goal when we began brainstorming how we could open our restaurant in Santa Clarita.  It could feature the fabulous burgers, pizza and margaritas that we’ve created.  I’ve gone on record before saying that I will never open a restaurant, but when we were talking about our new business, I was all in.  Velda was all in.  The fantasy took us away … and the stress of the workweek was left far, far behind.

We had gone away.  And that is a very good thing.

Posted June 27, 2012 by henrymowry in Living Life

Tagged with , , , , ,

The First Big Taste Test   Leave a comment

The goal is to craft the ultimate Margarita … not find the best tasting tequila.  Therefore, we followed the suggestion first seen on The Goodist, and created a taste test to showcase tequilas in a standard Margarita recipe.

The classic Margarita recipe was just too tart for the family members that were tasked to sample some of the preliminary mixes.  The classic margarita recipe has a proportion of 3:2:1

  • 3 parts, tequila
  • 2 parts, lime juice
  • 1 part, orange liqueur

The Goodist suggested a “tequila forward” recipe of 4:1:1, but that was similarly unacceptable to our palates.  We settled on a 6:5:4 recipe, as follows:

  • 1-1/2 oz, tequila
  • 1-1/4 oz, margarita mix
  • 1 oz, Grand Marnier

Further, we decided that we would not put ice in the samples, as that would dilute the recipe based on when the sample was drunk.  Therefore, we addded a cup of water to the Margarita Mix recipe, (hopefully) simulating the melting of ice.  Hey, it’s our taste test; we made up the rules.

We then had to choose 13 tequilas to go into the final test.  In the weeks leading up to the first big taste test, we had “pre-gamed” with almost all of the tequilas, and there were already strong opinions on those that just wouldn’t do.  Therefore, we excluded 3 tequilas from the first formal tasting.  Excluded:

  1. Jose Cuervo Gold … In our first preliminary and blind taste test with 4 tequilas, all 4 judges rated this tequila the worst sampled.  “It tasted like fish.”  I advocated keeping this in, as it is the # 1 selling tequila in the world, but I was overuled.  Excluded.
  2. Pueblo Viejo Reposado … A relatively inexpensive reposado, it also didn’t make it out of the preliminary tastings.  Cheap, but no good.
  3. Reserva del Maestro Dobel Diamond Reposado … an expensive artisan tequila that had a too bright, perhaps over-filtered flavor.  I’m not a brewmaster, but I’ll tell you this tequila tasted awful.  I bought it at BevMo, where another tequila buyer commented on what a lovely bottle the tequila came in; that’s true.  They should have invested in the product, not the packaging, IMHO.

The 13 remaining tequilas were all mixed about 3 hours before the taste test, and refrigerated until they were poured into the tasting cups.

Each drink was rated in 4 categories: Aroma/Nose, Initial Taste, Finish and Smoothness. Perfect rating would be a 20 from each judge, and we had 11 judges.

This was a blind taste test; the only person who knew which tequila was in which bottle, initially, was me. By the time the tasting began hours later, I only remembered the number of one of the tequilas. After the tasting, I didn’t know which was which and I didn’t care.

All tasting cups were put in a tray with crushed ice to keep the samples cool.

We mixed the equivalent of 5 cocktails for each tequila. We then poured 11 samples, which were roughly the equivalent of 2-1/2 cocktails total of each. If you consumed all of each sample … which most did not … then you were drinking 2-1/2 cocktails. Too much for a taste test? Probably. But everyone filled out their ballot after drinking perhaps half of each sample. No one thought their judgement was impaired. Later on … when all of the excess samples were dumped into the “number 14 Margarita” … well, it was a good night.

When the tasting began, the 11 judges were seated around the dining room table.  Everyone had water to drink, as well as access to tortilla chips (salt!) and guacamole.

The results?  I was surprised.

Margarita Mix Recipe   Leave a comment

Margarita Mix

  • 3 cups water, heated
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 3 cups, fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 1 cup, fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons, lime zest
  • 2 tablespoons, lemon zest

This green depression glass antique lemon reamer is ideal for squeezing lemons & limes. Check out your local antique mall for this affordable collectable that will be very useful in your kitchen.

Use a lemon reamer to juice the limes and lemons. After reaming the fruit, using a citrus squeezer will maximize yield from the limes (you may find this step unnecessary for the lemons).

Heat the water until it boils. Stir in sugar, and then cool to room temperature. Add the juices and zest. Refrigerate overnight. Strain out the pulp and zest before use – unless you like your Margaritas chewy.

Posted June 27, 2012 by henrymowry in Recipes

Tagged with , , , ,

Tequila   7 comments

There are literally hundreds of tequilas on the market today. Even if you limit your selections to Reposados … hundreds. I researched tequilas, chose some of the best sounding and best reviewed, and then bought the best I could find.  We started the taste test with the 16 tequilas that I could find.

Most were purchased from two Southern California chains: BevMo and Total Wine. A few came from other sources … the Marquez de Valencia is difficult to find, as this tequila is rather rare in our area. Here are the initial contenders for the best of the best, along with local pricing that I found and some ratings that you’ll find on the ‘net:

3 Amigos Reposado

  • $24.99
  • Tequila.net Editors: 92
  • Tequila.net Readers: 92

7 Leguas Reposado

  • $38.99
  • Tequila.net Readers: 92

1800 Reserva Reposado

  • $15.99
  • Tequila.net Readers: 83

Casa Noble Reposado

  • $43.99
  • Tequila.net Readers: 93
  • This tequila has a big brand presence

Don Celso Reposado

  • $29.99
  • Tastings.com Editors: 94

El Tesoro de Don Felipe Reposado

  • $37.99
  • Tastings.com Editors: 94
  • Tequila.net Readers: 92

Gran Centenario Reposado

  • $23.99
  • Tastings.com Editors: 94
  • Tequila.net Readers: 91

Herradura Reposado

  • $32.99
  • Tequila.net Readers: 85
  • 2011 TEQUILA.net Awards – “Best of the Best” Best Lowland Reposado Tequila

Jose Cuervo Gold

  • $13.99
  • Tequila.net Readers: 61
  • # 1 selling tequila in the world

KAH Tequila Reposado

  • $47.99
  • Tequila.net Editors: 92
  • Tequila.net Readers: 92
  • 2011 TEQUILA.net Awards – “Best of the Best” Best High-Proof Tequila
  • Day of the Dead-themed Skull makes this one of the most attractive bottles on the shelf!

Lunazul Blanco

  • $15.99
  • Tequila.net Readers: 82

Reserva del Maestro Dobel Diamond

  • $39.99
  • Tequila.net Editors: 93
  • Tequila.net Readers: 92

Marquez de Valencia Reposado

  • $47.99
  • Tastings.com Editors: 94
  • 2011 TEQUILA.net Awards – “Best of the Best” Best Highland Reposado Tequila Judge Favorite
  • 2010 TEQUILA.net Awards – Gold Medal
  • “Best Tequila for Margaritas according to BestCovery.com

Muchote Reposado

  • $24.99
  • Tequila.net Editors: 94
  • Tequila.net Readers: 94
  • 2008 Agave Spirits Challenge Gold Medal & Judge Favorite

Pueblo Viejo Reposado

  • $18.99
  • Tequila.net Readers: 88

Sol de Mexico Tequila Reposado

  • $39.99
  • Tequila.net Editors: 91

The Nuts & Bolts of Margaritas   1 comment

Classic Margaritas have 3 ingredients:

  • Tequila
  • Lime juice
  • Orange liqueur

The selection of the best of the best will be controversial in every case.

Tequila

There are several grades of tequila, but they are not gold and silver!  Jose Cuervo may be the #1 selling tequila in the world … Patron may currently be the most popular top shelf tequila.  However, they must deliver the best-tasting Margarita to be the best of the best!

There are two categories of tequila:  mixto and 100% blue agave.  The best tequilas are made from blue agave, and will always say “100% Blue Agave” on the label.  If that isn’t on the label, then the tequila you’re looking at is a mixto, made from a blend of different sugar syrups.  Avoid these tequilas!

A field of Blue Agave. Picture from Don Julio tequila, which harvests after 7-13 years of growth.

You’ll commonly see 4 kinds of tequila on the shelf:

  1. Blanco, taken straight from the still, or aged under 2 months in stainless steel
  2. Reposado, aged in oak barrels from 3 to 12 months
  3. Anejo, aged in oak barrels for 1 to 3 years
  4. Extra Anejo, aged in oak barrels over 3 years

Jose Cuervo is a mixto.  The price is often low … and the quality matches that.  Jose is not my friend.

Reposado tequilas offer a good compromise between price and depth of flavor.  Some people prefer Margaritas made with blancos, but reposados are generally recommended for Cadillac Margaritas.

Lime Juice & Margarita Mix

Many, many margarita recipes use pure lime juice.  Most bars, however, use a sweet & sour mix instead.  Go to the store, and you can buy margarita mix which is a mix of juices, sugars and colorings.  After you make home-made sweet & sour, you’ll never buy another bottle from the store.

Using pure lime juice produced a drink much too tart for my palate.  We then began to investigate a sweet & sour mix with a strong lime component.  Here’s the Margarita Mix recipe Velda settled on:

  • 3 cups water, heated
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 3 cups, fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 1 cup, fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons, lime zest
  • 2 tablespoons, lemon zest

This green depression glass antique lemon reamer is ideal for squeezing lemons & limes. Check out your local antique mall for this affordable collectable that will be very useful in your kitchen.

Use a lemon reamer to juice the limes and lemons.  After reaming the fruit, using a citrus squeezer will maximize yield from the limes (you may find this step unnecessary for the lemons).

Heat the water until it boils.  Stir in sugar, and then cool to room temperature.  Add the juices and zest.  Refrigerate overnight.  Strain out the pulp and zest before use – unless you like your Margaritas chewy.

Orange Liqueur

Most of the literature I’ve reviewed says that Grand Marnier is the right choice for a Cadillac Margarita.  We’ve now got 5 kinds of orange liqueur that we’ll be sampling.  Tough, tough work ahead of us!

Posted June 25, 2012 by henrymowry in Recipes, The Perfect Margarita

Tagged with , , , , ,

Late to the Party   1 comment

I’m generally a stickler for being on time.  I hate the anxiety associated with not being timely.

It’s with great pleasure, however, that I find that however late to the party, I found a great reading escape this summer, to the Liaden Universe.

Science Fiction has been one of my reading passions since I first discovered Isaac Asimov, Robert Silverberg and Ray Bradbury in grade school.  I generally enjoy “hard sci fi” and military sci fi the best, though the space opera that is the Liaden Universe has been a delight.

Sharon Lee and Steve Miller are the authors, and they struggled mightily to bring this work to their readers beginning in 1998.  They found a way for readers to fund them with online subscriptions, chapter by chapter, until they found a publisher that would help them produce the series.

The books trace Clan Korval, seemingly, from this universe to the next over the course of several generations.  From a telepathic vegetable to the coming of age story that is at the center of the last 3 books, I found the ideas fresh and the emotions pure.  Loved the long-lived clutch turtles with names as long as their years!

These books are true to the space opera genre:  the thoughts and emotions of the characters generally take center stage; the action and technology are secondary to the people.

The work itself has been published in several overlapping, confusing formats, which made figuring it out a bit of a problem.  As is often the case, Wikipedia was a big help in identifying which edition was which.

Side note:  I’ve resolved to never use the resources on Amazon.com to figure out the order of an author’s work again.  Amazon does not seem to understand that reading book 3 before book 4 is the best way to read a series.  Amazon just doesn’t understand that their customers often need help discerning which book is which.

Here, then, are the books as available from Baen Books, which are conveniently available for reading in electronic form:

  1. The Dragon Variation: contains Local Custom, Scout’s Progress, and Conflict of Honors
  2. Mouse & Dragon
  3. The Crystal Variation: contains Crystal Soldier, Crystal Dragon, and Balance of Trade
  4. The Agent Gambit: contains Agent of Change and Carpe Diem
  5. Korval’s Game:  contains Plan B and I Dare
  6. Fledgling
  7. Saltation
  8. Ghost Ship

Note that Baen Books does not make their books available electronically through Amazon.com; you’ll have to purchase direct from Baen and upload to your Kindle.  It’s very simple to do so with the directions on the Baen site.  If you’re looking for traditional books printed on traditional paper, that’s also possible!

Posted June 24, 2012 by henrymowry in Reading

Tagged with , , , ,

How do you make a margarita?   Leave a comment

I remember the night very well.  We were celebrating summer in our back yard, and the party was rocking.  The pizza oven had been hot as blazes (literally), and I needed a cool drink.  Alley brought me a Cadillac Margarita that she’d mixed up … and I was in heaven.

Unfortunately, she’s never been able to re-make that wonderful drink, which is why I’ve encouraged the family to search for the perfect margarita!  Most people seem to think that a Cadillac Margarita is the best of the best, so that’s what we’re going to create:  the ultimate Cadillac Margarita.

I googled the key words in various combinations, consulted Velda’s drink recipes, and have found that there’s no easy path.  You can find bloggers that talk about favorite drinks at favorite restaurants … you can find countless recipes as well.  But is there someone out there that’s actually compared ingredients and recipes head to head?  Not so much.

I found a 2009 post on The Goodist, but it was a fragment of an idea that was never taken to fulfillment.  Over the next several weeks, we’re going to fulfill the promise of an ultimate Cadillac Margarita.  The ingredients will be top notch, and the results will be worthy of your sampling.  Note that I expect to find several “best” results … the best on the rocks, the best blended, the best (affordable) party drink, etc.  Here’s what we’ll do:

  • Investigate different tequilas, and have a blind taste test.
  • Identify the best Margarita Mix recipe.
  • Develop different presentations and recipes for the best tequilas.
  • Identify the best liqueur to use:  Grand Marnier, Cointreau, Triple Sec….

As you can see, there are many steps on the path … but just as they say about the road to Hana, it’s all about the journey!

By the way, I’ve trolled around some tequila websites, and have found a couple of fun facts:

The Margarita is a relatively young drink.  The origin is in dispute, but Wikipedia believes the drink was crafted after prohibition in honor of a Margarita.  Or a Peggy.  Or maybe a Daisy.  Good reading, and you’ll find the International Bartender Association’s recipe here.

The Margarita is the most popular tequila drink in America, and is of course served in Mexico as well.  According to a tequila blog I read, however, Margaritas are sometimes viewed as “girly drinks” south of the border.  Men drink their tequila straight, apparently, or perhaps with a sangrita back, as it’s often served.

Serious business, yes?  And just to show you how serious….

15 tequilas enter the initial competition to be named the best tequila for the best margarita!

Posted June 24, 2012 by henrymowry in The Perfect Margarita

Tagged with , , ,

%d bloggers like this: