Frazzled Marc, half way through my 40s!

Frazzled Marc, half way through my 40s!
Frazzled Marc, half way through my 40s!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Mom, the Florida Keys Bartender

Me n' Bartender Mom (early 90s)

For a period of time during the early 1990's, my Mom lived down in the Florida Keys with my stepdad Barry. She had divorced my Dad a couple of years prior. It was a difficult time for my family but thankfully, we all survived that period of emotional turmoil.

Mom was attempting to find herself and it ultimately became an incredible time for her, a period of regrowth and discovery. As a family, we rebuilt our relationship stronger than ever. The same can be said with our relationship with my Dad as well. It was the first time I truly had an adult relationship with each of my parents, being able to receive advice from them and give it back (solicited or not, LOL).

Mom and Barry lived at Barry's place in Tamarac Park, Key West, Florida. Specifically, they lived off of Mile Marker 10, down Boca Chica Road. If you know the Florida Keys, you know that places are often informally referred to as by what mile marker they are located at since the Overseas Highway it one long 113 mile stretch from Miani to Key West.

I remember the trip well as I drove it at least a dozen times. From Miami, travel about 3 hours south towards Key West and then make a left at Mile Marker 10, right at the Circle K convenience store. Simple enough directions, right? It was always a scenic drive of resorts, motels, and bugalows, sport fishing spots, bridges connecting the keys, plenty of palm trees and mile after mile of the most beautiful turquoise blue waters you can imagine.

Mom and Barry lived in a little resort-style neighborhood called Tamarac Park on Geiger Key. It was off Boca Chica Key, where the US Naval Base was located. Mom had recently married my stepdad Barry. Geiger Key was 99% residential but did have a great little RV park, marina, restaurant and bar. It was here at the Geiger Key Marina that Mom took a job on a whim as bartender of that little bar in the open air restaurant sitting next to the endless mangroves and canals.


http://www.geigerkeymarina.com/

Everyone loved Abby the bartender. My Mom was feisty and ready to give you a frosty beer along with her wit and (sometimes barbed) wisdom. Standing at a petite 5 ft 4 inches and barely over 100 pounds, Abby become the favorite bartender of the locals who loved her sassy personality but knew she couldn't be taken advantage of.

Even being of small stature, Mom was very well respected. When someone would get drunk or out of hand, my Mom would raise her voice, "Just try me buddy, just try me!" She would grab the bat hidden under the bar and slam it right down on the bar top. She apparently had lots practice doing this with wooden spoons on my childhood backside. She had the back up of her bar patrons of course.

My sister Sheryl saw her bartending and said Mom never looked so happy tending bar. She was in her element, helping people and also able to talk as much as she liked. LOL

Bartender Marc at the Lodge in 2016
I started bartending and waiting tables in Philly during my 20's and have continued it in one position or another since then. Happily, I just celebrated 7 years bartending at the Lake Wynonah Lodge in my community.

One of the joys that I get while bartending is knowing that my Mom did it for a spell for before me. I see her in myself. The mannerisms, the attitude, the loudness, and the ability to have multiple conversations going on at once with friends, strangers, and anyone in between! Knowing that I have so much of her personality in me makes me smile. So when I have a shot at a bar ... ANYTIME I have a shot at a bar ... and I look up, know that I am toasting my incredible Mom the bartender.


***"This holiday season I can truly say that I ate like a king and I drank like a fish."- ME***






Thursday, December 29, 2016

A Spirits Course and my Favorite Booze Selections

Santa was very generous to me this year. :)  (my own pic)
With New Years Eve quickly approaching, I thought I would voice my opinion and subsequent endorsement for some of my favorite booze. Santa was very generous to me this year, bestowing upon me 8 plus bottles of various spirits. My friends and family know me so well. 😊 And with a good 20+ years of hotel, bar, and restaurant experience I've learned a thing or two about fine spirits.

When I worked at the Ritz-Carlton Philadelphia, I took a professional spirits course with my good friend and boss, John Waldbillig. John was the Director of Purchasing and I was the purchaser, his right hand man so-to-speak. The course was held at the Four Seasons Hotel, our competitor, but they were gracious hosts and so professional in their service (as they should be to try and compete with the Ritz-Carlton!) LOL

Sterling Spirits held the day long course on the ins and outs of various types of liquor. We compared clarity, color, taste, smell, etc.  We first tasted the light spirits during the morning: vodka, gin, silver tequila, light rum. You didn't want to start off too heavy.

Next to each seat were these silver wine buckets we would "spit" in. After you took a swig of the alcohol, you swirl it around your mouth, carefully breathing in some air to get a fuller flavor, and then spit. You just cannot do these types of courses and swallow the booze. It just isn't possible or recommended. It is also professionally frowned upon to swallow. You need to conduct yourself as a hotel/restaurant professional and neatly spit the booze into the silver spittoon. But even with all the spitting, you still end up imbibing some of the alcohol sublingually so by time lunch rolled around, we were each feeling pretty good!

After a really nice, swanky lunch complete with many gin Tom Collins' being served, we tasted the brown liquors next: dark rum, gold tequila, whisky, scotch, and bourbon. By this time, I was definitely feeling the alcohol. The room had become quite warm. I couldn't tell a caramel taste from a vanilla one. Luckily I was in the company of those said professionals who were inadvertently getting sloshed along with me. Good company I may add!

After the event, Sterling Spirits hosted a happy hour in a beautiful wood paneled room in the hotel for us and served up bourbon Manhattans. (It may or may have not been wood paneled. Maybe the lights were just down and the room was dark. I dunno.) The rest of the evening was a bit blurry and since the course was completed, professionalism went out the window.

Bulldog London Dry Gin
I remember ending up at the Rittenhouse Hotel Boathouse Row Bar for a drink with good buddy John W. also known as JW or Big Daddy depending on who knew him, what time a day it was, or how many we had imbibed. We had a couple drinks at Locust Rendezvous Bar and then a couple more at the Pen and Pencil Writer's Club until closing, maybe 3 AM I think? WHAT A NIGHT. Fun stuff when your are young in the city and can bounce back the next day. It was one of my best memories with John W. as well (may he rest in peace).

I learned a lot about what the 'experts' felt were the best tasting liquors. I also learned that after a couple more years in the business, I made my own decisions on what I thought were the best tasting liquors. Taste a lot and make your own decisions. BUT ... if I may give my two cents, here are my favorites in no particular order:

**********************************************************************************

Laphroaig 10 yr Single Malt Scotch: nice smokey peaty flavor. My favorite Single Malt Scotch. Very distinctive flavor though. Very rich, and did I say smokey and peaty! I mean it!

Bulldog London Dry Gin: Smooth, mellow, not overwhelming but with a fresh juniper flavor. Makes an excellent traditional martini.

Hendricks Distilled Scottish Gin: A sweet floral cucumber flavor; garnish with a cuc slice too. Just a Hendricks with a cuc slice on the rocks please!

Stateside Urbancraft Vodka
Lazzaroni Amaretto Liqueur: A sweeter amaretto flavor than what's normally out there. So nice for an after dinner drink.

Stateside Urbancraft Vodka: Philadelphia distilled vodka, I love it. Very smooth. I enjoy it on the rocks. Plus its from Philly so what's not to love?

Jameson Caskmates Whiskey: This Irish Whiskey is aged in barrels that once held craft beer. I find the flavor much smoother than your normal Jameson's.

Bulleit Bourbon: A flavorful "frontier" Kentucky whiskey, reasonable priced, and lots of  good ole history! I love making Manhattans with this bourbon. I taste notes of caramel, vanilla, and pepper when I sip this.

Organic Ocean Vodka: Hawaiian vodka distilled from organic cane sugar in a unique fun bottle. Very clean, very smooth and gluten free!

Ciroc Vodka: I have always loved Ciroc since it came out. Ultra-premium vodka made from French grapes. Distilled 5 times and incredibly crisp. Has a slight sweetness. I don't use olives with this one due to the sweetnes. Perhaps a lemon twist or lemon/lime wedge.

Toschi Nocello Walnut Liqueur: An old favorite. Love the walnut and hazelnut flavors. One of my favorite after-dinner drinks.


Bastille French Whisky
Graham's Six Grapes Reserve Porto: My all time favorite porto from Portugal of course! Full bodied, rich, ruby red, tasting of plums and blackberries. Oh My God so rich! YUM. Meant for sipping... but I've been known to go through a bottle in a weekend. :)

Bastille 1789 Blended French Whisky: Oh YES! The French can make excellent whisky! Subtle, floral, with a nice finish. Not overpowering. Just a beautifully smooth whisky, reasonably priced and aged in French Limousin oak barrels which originally held wine helping to give the whisky it's distinctive flavor.

Now I did not include detailed descriptions of each. Check out the internet on how to get them and further info on flavors, etc. I included pictures of a couple of my favorites based on my discretion only.

BLOGGERS NOTE: This blog is dedicated to my good friend, colleague, and best boss, John Waldbillig. RIP my friend. No one could work hard, then play hard, drink hard, and listen to Frank Sinatra like JW.

ADDITIONAL BLOGGERS NOTE: These three pics of Bulldog, Stateside, and Bastille were borrowed from the internet. I do not own them nor claim them as my own.



Monday, December 12, 2016

Mom's Holiday Champagne Punch

Vintage pic found on Google

I've made Mom's holiday recipe for a champagne sherbet punch just once before. Mom would make it each December for her annual holiday open house through the late 70s and 80s. She just loved decorating the house for the holidays. As my household was a dual religious home, she would decorate for Christmas for Dad and Hanukkah for herself and us kids.

My family always celebrated both holidays. It was natural in my home! We'd have garland and white and blue lights, a small Christmas tree and our Menorah, stockings hung on the banister and dreidels spinning on the coffee table, candy canes and Hanukkah gelt (chocolate coins), sugar cookies, chocolate chip cookies and potato latkes. Mom would mix our home-made holiday ornaments with her collection of delicate Scandinavian wooden ornaments. It was a season of celebration and she just reveled in it.

By the way, my friends would always ask if we got gifts on both Hanukkah and Christmas and YES ... we did make out like bandits and got DOUBLE THE GIFTS. #bestofbothworlds #jealousmuch?

People say every thing old becomes new again and after my research on the sherbet punch, I was pleasantly surprised to see so many variations of recipes for it circulating on Google, food websites, and Pinterest. It definitely has a vintage feel to it. I surveyed a bunch of friends and each one had a memory of it being served at any number of holiday parties including birthday and cocktail parties or during Halloween, Christmas, or New Years parties. It's nice to see it has come back.

I think I'll be serving it for my family over Christmas Eve. The nice thing about it is you can make a non-alcoholic version of it and then one with as much Champagne as you want. I will do the latter of course. Use the cheapy sparkling wine though. You don't want to use your Dom Perignon or even Veuve Clicquot for the sherbet punch. LOL


Holiday Champagne Sherbet Punch 

Holiday Orange Champagne Sherbert Punch -Pinterest
by Abby Deeds

-Champagne or a sweet sparking wine (I think we used Cold Duck or Andre, the cheap stuff!)
-Ginger ale 
-Sherbet

Add sherbet last in scoops.

That's it, no more directions. Okaaay. I am kinda guessing my Mom eye-balled it. LOL At the time, Mom would've used a cheap sparkling wine like Andre or Cold Duck. Cold Duck was a sweet red sparkling wine I remember from the 70s. It should be a sweeter sparkling wine though. There is no flavor of sherbet specified but I remember Mom using orange. Hence, the pic to the right for illustrative purposes. :)

Now for those that just cannot stand having a vague recipe based on tasting as you go, here is one for a New Year's Champagne Punch that I found online from Food.com.


Raspberry Champagne Sherbet Punch

Prep time: 10 minutes
Serves: 8

-750 ml bottle of Champagne
-1 quart raspberry sherbet
-2 liters ginger ale
-1 pint thawed frozen raspberries

Mix all except for sherbet, then add it to the top (in scoops).

You could use strawberry sherbet and add strawberries, orange sherbet and add sliced oranges, or make it with rainbow sherbet! Some people add orange juice as well. As I stated before, you can make it non-alcoholic with just ginger ale or Sprite for a sweeter flavor.

Bloggers NOTE:  I did search for some family photos of the holiday open houses that Mom and Dad had but alas, have not found any yet. The pics above are not owned by me and I am using them for purely illustrative purposes.



Monday, December 5, 2016

My Favorite Camping Stuff!

Hikers Marc and John! (No, I'm not giving you the finger.)
John and I spent Thanksgiving again up at World's End State Park as we have done so for the last several years since my Mom passed away. It has become a nice break before the craziness of the holidays ensures. One day I do plan on joining my sister out in San Diego at my brother's for Thanksgiving but for now, this has become a nice tradition.

So the holiday was spent hiking, cabin camping, feasting on smoked turkey, toasting marshmallows, drinking some fine ass bourbon and smoking Cohibas cigars. I love getting back to nature and believe it or not, having no cell service. Well, at least for a while. LOL

Sporks aplenty! 
Kelty sleeping bag
Awesome coffee pot
It's pretty funny walking into one of the local bars up there with WiFi and having your phone start pinging madly a dozen times with notifications from any half a dozen social media websites I am a part of.

My fav mug
ID holder
My knives
While packing up all of our stuff in the cabin on that final Saturday morning, I began to think about how much I loved my sleeping back. I 've had it for about half a dozen years and it is still the most comfortable sleeping bag I've ever owned. It is a Kelty brand sleeping bag, specifically, their Light Year 3D 25' degree bag. It is so warm. I've slept in it while camping in Maine where the overnight temp dropped to 20'F, woken up with snow on the ground, and still been warmly snug as a bug in a rug. Kelty is a well known outfitter for camping, hiking, and back packing. Check out their website for great stuff: www.kelty.com.

SO, without further adieu, my list for my favorite camping items is as follows, in no particular order:
  1. my Kelty sleeping bag (see above)
  2. pan scraper:  Unfortunately it broke but with some black Gorilla duct tape, it is as good as new! It works just awesome when scraping burnt camp food off the bottom of the frying pans.
  3. sporks: Sporks are an odd invention. I do like my sporks though but I tend to also stab myself in the mouth when I use the spoon part, or is it the fork part? Either way, OUCH.
  4. camo hiking pants:  I've had these hunter green camouflage pants for years. They have worn so much that they are now so soft and comfortable to wear. But they are camo and I blend in so I am forced to wear ... 
  5. my orange cap:  I always wear the orange cap while hiking. I know people tease me about it but it is a necessity when you are hiking along trails in PA State Game Lands. I don't want my ass to get shot!
  6. favorite mug: I used my blue speckled enameled mug for coffee, for soup, for hot chocolate, beans, red wine, bourbon, other whiskys and assorted alcoholic libations! And YES, I do rinse it between the beans and red wine. I also like my kinda matching red tumbler for the same reasons. Except I don't eat beans from it.
  7. coffee pot: This awesome vintage coffee pot is a relatively new purchase. John and I used to each have our own small individual coffee pots but they never made enough coffee for two mugfuls before that early morning hike. This one does and then some. It's mid-century, aluminum with a red Bakelite handle. A little pizzazz for your campsite!
  8. ID holder: My great hard plastic black ID holder is waterproof, can old a couple pieces of ID, that important medical card if you take a tumble, and a key to your cabin or car. Wear this and you won't lose that wallet scrambling up and over a house-sized boulder.
  9. knives: I have two favorite knives I take camping. The first one, the white handle one, is a Boy Scouts of America knife. It was a gift from my Mom and Dad waaay back in the early 80's; a sort of coming of age gift. I never made Eagle Scout, dropped out actually of Scouting but this knife is one of my most treasured possessions for whom it is from and what it represents for me. The second knife, is a gift from John. It's an awesome large folding knife. Perfect for slicing off cheese, dry sausage, or a huge turkey leg from the smoked bird as I did on Thanksgiving. 
  10. Tapatio hot sauce:  This California hot sauce is just hot enough for a nice kick for this guy. I'm not a big fan of thermo-nuclear hot sauces. I just want some flavor with a kick. I also don't like hot sauces which are too vinegary. Tapatio is just a damn tasty kick in the pants!
  11. hiking gloves: Every serious hiker should have a nice pair of light weight hiking gloves. It will help prevent callouses, prevent you from accidentally getting poison ivy (as long as you don't scratch yourself with the gloves on - LOL), holding onto that walking stick, grabbing onto boulders or questionable logs infested with questionable bugs.
  12. hiking stick: Every hiker should have a good ... no scratch that ... a GREAT hiking stick! It should be just tall enough to be comfortable to hike with and not too heavy to become a burden. And sometimes you even pretend you are a martial arts warrior taking down unseen bad guys in the woods... whaaat? Oh never mind. LOL After years of hiking with your walking stick, you will get comfortable with it as your side piece. It is a must have!                                                                                                                                                                                 

My hiking stick for years!
Gloves gloves gloves
I hike and camp with Tapatio! 


BLOGGER's NOTE: Sorry for the wonky picture setup. Don't know why it was doing that and I did try to fix it. I may be eventually moving onto a more "user" friendly blogging site.