He’s Got Game [Self Reliance]

Here, my first feature (with original photos!) for Edible Manhattan and Edible Brooklyn, on newsstands now. It’s a story that easily could have become a chapter for The Accidental Extremist: two men with virtually no experience and hearty thirsts for whisky load up a bunch of  guns and go game shooting in Scotland. One, a world class chef, was a natural. The other, not even close, merely lived to tell. Enjoy!

On a gusty wet morning in January, chef Terrance Brennan stood in a sodden field with mud streaming down his boots and a loaded gun in his hands. This was Scotland’s Earn Valley, in Perthshire, not far from the town of Auchterarder, and the day—two winters back—wasn’t starting well.

The A7 Quattro had gotten mired in the mud; everyone had drained more than a few whiskies the night before; the driving wind and rain had soaked us to the bone. The plan—for Brennan; Andrew Hamilton, a Scottish-born, East Coast–based game supplier; and me—was for a traditional “rough shoot,” meaning, loosely, this: a stomp in the fields, dogs, plenty of ammo and, with a bit of luck, some quarry—pheasants, duck, maybe a woodcock or two.

We’d arrived for the last week of shooting season in Scotland, where all of the game birds Brennan has served at Picholine for the last 12 autumns are shot in the wild on sprawling estates, but so far, the fields were silent. Then Mark Wilson, a local farmer’s blue eyed, red-haired son showing us around, led us into a boggy field.

Suddenly Clyde and Rosie—Wilson’s dogs, a spry cocker spaniel and an ancient black lab—flushed a noisy whorl of teal ducks from a pond into the sky. Terrance raised his shotgun and blasted, unloading both barrels. They were his first-ever shots at birds, and, in that instant, the day improved considerably: two ducks froze in mid-air, shot through, and dropped like stones. Continue reading “He’s Got Game [Self Reliance]”

Introducing The Accidental Extremist

The best kind of travel is the least-expected. Even if it means narrowly escaping disaster. Especially if it means narrowly escaping disaster. Ever think to yourself, “I shoulda stayed home”? Tell your story over on my new blog, The Accidental Extremist

Think of it as the online home for misadventure. Stories about the wheels coming off and what happened next. Cultural gaffes. Cautionary Tales. Submit them, especially if they’re funny. Make them compelling. (And yes, make them true, or risk the lash of karmic whips). This is the place for off-the-road tales of the outlandish, the ridiculous, and the embarrassing. Basically everything that daily life is not. Snapshots, videos, links, cartoons, postcards all welcome. We can use your name, or not. Your call. And Happy Trails! 

Life Imitates Art [Flyers’ Remorse]

From the first page of the recent and much-lauded Jonny Miles debut novel “Dear American Airlines” (Houghton Mifflin) any weary traveler worth his industrial-strength earplugs will surely nod in baleful agreement with Miles’ assessment of the scabrous conditions considered normal in American commercial aviation. Apparently, some recent AA passengers didn’t get the memo (read: everybody loses) and decided to fight back. Which, in keeping with the way things go these days, backfired. But at least they tried. I was Miles’ researcher/fact-checker at Men’s Journal for a couple of years, which was a pleasure, especially working on one non-fiction ode to New Orleans bars in all their decadent glory. Catch him reading from his new book this Monday night the 14th at the Half King. I’ll be there. RELATED: Vicarious air rage was never so therapeutic nor generously rewarding. Buy the book.

I, Distiller

bottleonlabeler.jpgEarly Monday evening the 23rd of April the wood-paneled lobby bar of the Four Seasons on East 52nd and Park was humming, the spicy, sweet scent of bourbon born aloft. The proprietors of the Hudson Valley’s Tuthilltown Spirits, which fired up a German still in a refurbished eighteenth century granary a few years ago—were on hand, armed with plenty.The occasion—alcohol for alcohol’s sake—nevertheless called for some decorum: ‘The most perfect Manhattan….JACKETS REQUIRED FOR GENTLEMEN’, the invitation read. Still, at least one schlub showed up wearing a dingy grey T-shirt. Tuthilltown, a tiny concern, had thrown the party to mark the release of the first—or first legal, at least—rye whiskey made in New York State since Prohibition. Crisply dressed bartenders mixed it from stubby, apothecary-like bottles into Perfect Manhattans—2 ounces Rye, one half ounce dry vermouth, half ounce sweet vermouth, two to three dashes orange or Angostura bitters, and lemon twist, over ice, garnished with maraschino cherries—and passed them out as the partygoers snacked on sushi and warm cheese puffs. Hey, sushi and bourbon, why not? Continue reading “I, Distiller”