There’s a storm blowing in.

There’s a storm blowing in and the wind is picking at my blood, my teeth, lifting me. I can feel it out there crushing the air against the dampening earth, rolling the wind in front of the cloudforce, rolling over my brain in a curling wave of ecstasy and desire and looming pain that I can’t feel yet but will. It is coming and I can see it through the empty black of smothered night, see the lightning knifing across the cornfields and the prairies on the endless plains more than a thousand miles beyond the horizon. I can see the lighting threading the air and feel the rent air thundering against the ground running under my feet and into my body, but I can’t hear it yet.

It is coming.

Raw groans come unbidden from my panting mouth and I pace jerkily across the tiny kitchen, the cheap white linoleum floor foreign and strange. I see the walls and the lights and clock and the clutter of this life that I have built that has been built that is always being built around me but I’m looking through them into the night at the lighting flashing white and yellow across the plains.

I’m back in that boxed-in land of meandering sidewalks and sodium lampposts, scurrying harried shadows flitting in and out of the evenly spaced lights, running from the storm, hiding in their borrowed ubiquitous rooms. I want to suck in the wind and blow them away blow down the buildings that hold me in, pen in the sky. I remember the urge need to get out of those hemming paths, to run across open ground and find the storm. I wanted to meet it on its own terms, uncontained and swallowing the night. To stand in the open and feel the lashing rain. To squint my eyes against the torrenting sky and wait to be blinded by lightning overhead, turning green and purple in its nearness. To feel the crack of thunder while my eyes still burn from the flash and my skin feels as if it is growing spines.

There was a different woman there once. Not mine. Just a woman who wanted to see the storm, who was willing to stand under the lighting with me and see what the storm would do. I can feel her now, on the periphery of my senses, a needle in my head tracking her as she moves, trying to point me at her. She must come to me now with the storm, for she is long gone from me in all but ink on scattered pages of mismatched paper, trailing through years and boxes, tucked into stacks in the dark of closets.

So now there is just the gathering storm, and me lost on the edge of it. It seems a herald, a flag cast down from the hand of some mighty god, and I open myself up to the wind listening for the words.

But I can’t hear them.

All I hear is the rushing wind in my ears and my imagined heartbeat echoing out of some deep hole in the world, pounding my body like thunder. But my breathing is slow. There is no wind, yet, though I imagine it hammering down the few sheltering peaks to the west, the sentinels that stand before the endless oceans, that have stood through memoryless ages of storms like this one. The blood I feel in my mouth is a ghost, torn from my empty frustration and desire. I feel an ache through my bones, my nerves throwing signals as if water on a blaze, but the building is lost, unrecoverable. I want to stand in the storm and let the thunder beat me to my knees, but instead I hear the sound of eight padded feet scrabbling across the floor as they swipe and chase a hair-tie or some bit of paper. The only wind in this room is from the whirring compressor in the fridge, and so I have nothing to guide me through the night.


Vinegared Gin SlingAt the instigation of a friend of mine I recently tried making something called posca (or, perhaps more accurately, something similar to something called posca). Posca was a traditional Roman drink composed mostly of watered down sour wine, often flavored with herbs or spices and sweetened. It was, in effect, the equivalent of lemonade only with vinegar instead of lemon juice. At this point I imagine whoever is reading this may have a slightly skeptical look on his or her face, but this look is not entirely warranted. In fact, having made something roughly equivalent I can assure you this is very tasty.

The real trick here is to track down as nice a vinegar as possible. After all, you’ll be drinking it. I used Sadaf brand vinegar which I purchased at the local middle eastern grocery store mostly because it’s the normal brand that I use in cooking. You can use any brand and probably any sort of vinegar in doing this, though I prefer cider or red wine vinegar. What is essential is that it is not distilled or quickly brewed: you want the subtle complex sourness that the longer process creates rather than the overpowering smell of acetic acid that you get otherwise. Neither of the vinegars that I used in trying out variations on this smelled the slightest bit like distilled vinegar.

The easiest thing to do is to make a concentrate of sweetened vinegar. Unlike lemon juice vinegar doesn’t lose flavor over time so you can do this in large quantity ahead of time and just leave it in the fridge. I like a ratio of around three cups of vinegar to one cup of sugar – in the pictured version I’ve mixed brown and white sugar which is why it’s darker, but this was only because of necessity and not taste. Heat the vinegar and dissolve the sugar in it as if you were making a simple syrup. Then add whatever spices you want. Coriander is especially nice (essential, really, for what I’m going to suggest), but I’ve also put anise seed and a little bit of fresh nutmeg in as well to good effect. Then bring the mixture to a boil and let it cook for a minute or two before turning off the heat and letting it steep for a bit. When it is cool enough to handle strain it and pour into a jar or bottle for safekeeping.

At this point if you want to make posca all you need to do is pour an ounce or two of the vinegar mixture into a tall glass and fill the rest of the way with water. You can use cold water, and add ice if you like. I find that unlike lemonade and most other drinks I actually find posca more refreshing when it’s sitting around room temperature, though, so it’s as least worth trying this.

This is a little boring, though, and as suggested in the title my first instinct was to go ahead and add gin to the drink. Luckily this works out pretty well: remember, one of the main flavors in the mixture is coriander, which is also a common botanical used in gins. It could probably be made more complex with the addition of a bitters (I have a bitters made with Rue that complements the fruitiness of the vinegar nicely, as it turns out). But honestly it’s pretty tasty as it is and adding a recipe for bitters to this post would be recommending and unreasonable amount of work when it comes to trying things out. Since the effect overall of adding gin is to make the drink a watered down and mildly sweetened gin with some vinegar mixed in there I’ve called it a vinegared sling. (It was easier than inventing a fancy name, at any rate.)

This is as much of a recipe as it makes sense to give for something as simple as this. But don’t be fooled: it really is delicious. As a side note I’ll add that the proportions here are entirely speculative. What actually tastes best will depend pretty substantially on what sort of vinegar you use, and how strong it is. So start with roughly equal quantities and then just experiment around until you get a nice balance.


1 1/2 oz Posca concentrate
1 1/2 oz Gin

Pour into tall glass, fill with flat water.

Posca Concentrate

3 Cups high quality vinegar
1 Cup white sugar
– or –
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
– or –
equivalent quantity of honey

Add sugar to vinegar and heat to dissolve. Add

Coriander seed, other spices to taste.

Bring to a boil until everything is neatly dissolved and smells fragrant. Take off heat and let cool. Strain and bottle.


The Secret Ingredient

3/4 Oz Sweet Vermouth

3/4 Oz Curacao

1/2 Oz Fernet Branca

1/2 Oz Dark Soy Sauce

1 Dash Herbsaint

Shake and strain.

The trick to this cocktail is to make sure to use dark soy sauce, not the more commonly available light soy sauce (or Japanese style soy sauce).  Dark Soy sauce has a thick almost molasses like flavor in addition to the rich saltiness of the soy sauce most people are familliar with.  My thoughts with this recipe had mostly to do with the effect that salty flavors have on bitter ones – for whatever reason when salty flavors are added to bitter flavors both seem to moderate themselves pretty quickly.  (This is why salads with dark greens taste better with a pinch or two of salt over them.)   So I added the dark soy sauce, which has a fairly salty bite right at the beginning of the flavor, to a drink with a large quantity of the most aggressive potable bitters I had on hand.  The recipe that I’ve provided is actually the result of a lucky mistake – my original plans had only included 1/4 oz of the dark soy sauce (I was afraid the saltiness would overwhelm the other flavors, or end up being unpalateable).  But after I accidentally added a full 1/2 oz I discovered that actually that amount balanced nicely with the other flavors and that the saltiness hadn’t been particularly obvious in the final drink.

The sweet vermouth and curacao actually end up acting as background players in the cocktail, despite amounting to the majority of its volume.  The majority of the flavor comes from the Herbsaint and Fernet Branca, with the soy sauce providing a dark almost chocolatey background to the flavor.  I would go so far as to say that it almost tastes like chocolate, somewhere deep down in the flavor.  There is surpisingly little saltiness in the flavor, or bitterness, at least compared to what the recipe would suggest.  The main effect of the combination of fernet branca and soy sauce is that, despite a good hard shake (as you can see from the photo), the drink is rich and almost syrupy feeling.  I certainly wouldn’t recommend this as a before dinner drink – it is too dark, rich and thick.  But it would make a surprisingly good digestive.  Overall I’m both surprised that Soy Sauce could be as effective an ingredient as it turned out to be and a little bit pleased with myself for figuring out that it could be one at all.

If Fernet Branca isn’t to your taste, though, there is a useful substitution that can be made.  Personally I like the stuff an awful lot, but the peculiar menthol taste isn’t always something people go for.  About a Teaspoon of Angostura bitters and upping the vermouth and curacao to an ounce each should give something pretty similar but with a slightly more aggressive bitter flavor and without the edge that the drink gets from the Fernet Branca.

I have a digital camera now!

I have a digital camera now!

1 Oz Boomsma Oude Genever

1 Oz Islay Mist Blended Scotch Whiskey

1/2 Oz Campari

2 Dashes Kirsch

Orange Twist; Lemon Twist

I think this one turned out fairly well, so I thought I’d post something (mostly, admittedly, for Ian’s benefit). I was thinking about odd combinations of base pairs and figured I’d go for broke and try something I hadn’t seen before. As it turns out the combination of Oude Genever and Scotch works surprisingly well. The gin softens the harder, peatier edges of the Scotch while still keeping the maltiness. This might also work with a Jonge genever, or a different blended scotch (the Islay Mist is pretty, well, Islay-ish, but it seems to meld well). The Campari and Kirsch combination struck me as another possibly interesting pairing as well, and the bitter orange flavors work really well with the maltiness of the base. Finally I put both an orange and a lemon twist in this because, well, everything else came in a pair but it works in an interesting way. Overall I think this drink worked well.

Hey guys. How’re you? I’ve missed you! For various reasons too complicated and boring to explain here, I probably won’t be posting much here anymore. I — gosh, this is hard — have actually been posting on my own blog for awhile now. It started as a summer fling, merely to keep track of how much I was writing and I only told a few folks about it. But it was fun! And before you know it, I was hooked! And then graduate school started, and I had to, like, take classes and teach classes and I started a new job, and I got busy, and I haven’t even been posting on that blog, so…

Yeah, yeah. World’s tiniest violin.

The point being, the new site is called Thoughts for a Sunshiney Morning. Check it out if you’d like. It’s on blogger, which actually sucks–WordPress is way better. But I’m too lazy to switch over.

But I have a final piece of ‘Spar business to take care of, which is: Off-Leash Area. As you may or may not recall, I wrote a review of a show they did some time ago. Anyway, they saw the review, and got in contact with me, and they’re nice people, and now I’m on their board. So don’t let nobody tell you Icelandspar never did anything for me.

So, as one of my first duties as a board member, I’m “hosting” one of the garage shows tonight. That means that I’m going to greet people, make a little speech before the show, and hang out afterwards and have drinks and chat with people by the bonfire.

So, Off-Leash Area fans, you should go! There are shows tonight, Saturday, and Sunday. Check out the website for more information, or look at this:

With a cast of three powerful women, including
Jennifer Ilse,
Co-Artistic Director  OLA
Karla Grotting,
2007 McKnight Dance Fellow,
Elena Giannetti

Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays
2 Weekends ONLY
October 3rd through 12th
ALL Shows - 7pm

Attendance to shows in Our Garage are
by Advance Reservation Only
Please call: 612-724-7372
Suggested Donation: $10-$15
(donations at the garage)

Join Us
after the show
refreshments by the fire pit in Our Backyard

I don’t like to think that I’m so locked into my political views that I can’t switch parties if the Republican’s field someone compelling. In my eyes, that hasn’t happened this cycle. But just for fun, I found myself thinking, what would the man have to do to earn my vote?

The Republican National Convention is causing all sorts of havoc for friends of mine in the Twin Cities right now, and that means McCain will be in the Twin Cities too. In order to get my vote, I’ve decided he will need to do the following:

He must go to the C.C. Club, with minimal escort, and order a Premium Grainbelt. Beer in hand he must then go to the jukebox and select “Time” by Tom Waits. When the song comes up, he will then have the secret service clear out the two mobile tables near the jukebox, where he shall proceed to dance a sad little shuffle as the song plays. That will earn my vote. If he manages to mumble the lyrics in a plaintive and half heard sort of way, I’ll even like doing it. Also, as long as he’s there, he should get the jalapeno cheese burger, because it’s damned tasty.

If he were to go to The Bulldog kiddy corner to the C.C., I’ll donate another $50 to Obama. If he goes to Common Roots across the corner, and gets the organic bagel? Well, then we’ll know the end times are upon us.

Ah, to dream that it could happen.

Cross posted at my own damn site.

A few months ago, I was flipping through the channels and settled on Dave Letterman for a few minutes. I was delighted to see that his music guest was not some horrible new indie band, but a jazz bassist and vocalist. After hearing Esperanza Spalding play and sing, I did the requisite Wikipedia search, and found out she was a faculty member at Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA. At twenty-four. Needless to say, I was impressed with her and depressed at my own lack of accomplishments. (Really, I’m fine with that, but the thrill of über-talented youth is getting to me—did you win eight gold medals last week? I didn’t. I barely managed to floss every night.) (more…)