Blog in review ’08

2008 has been good year for this blog. Due to more frequent posting, the popular morning links feature I added in January, guest blogging at The Agitator, and various publications elsewhere, traffic has nearly doubled from this time last year. In personal life I finally escaped the East Coast and moved west to Portland. Though I’m not completely settled here yet — a regular income would sure be nice — things are off to a great start, thanks in large part to the friends I’ve made through writing and tending bar.

Looking back at the end of a year, I’m always amazed at the many random things that have happened. Here’s the annual highlight reel:

January — Disappointment with Ron Paul, Tom Firey and I write against smoking bans for The Washington Post, the Virginia ABC bans sangria, and a few friends and I taste the newly available absinthe.

February — I get snarky in the Washington Times, Grape and Bean opens in Alexandria, and I play around with a Sazerac.

March — Magicians get no respect, Starbucks gets sued for distributing tips, I talk about secular sabbaths with the AP, and why I like tipping.

April — The BBC broadcasts a miracle fruit party from my apartment, I mix up a Massa Mojito, and the Blue Beetle cocktail gets blogged.

May — Baltimore says no cigars for poor people, libertarians suck at being corrupt, I visit a raw milk dairy, Starbucks pushes “scooped on” dates, and I make enemies in Detroit.

June — NYC pushes fruit carts, Paul Roberts and I have a friendly debate in the LA Times, my friend Amy’s mom gets a cocktail named after her, I go on a rant about cocktail shakers, and a discussion of menthol racism.

July — Why McCain’s health plan would be good for service industry workers, Flash websites bad for restaurants, precious coffee policies, I make a Hothouse Fizz with the new Plymouth sloe gin, and sampling miracle fruit tablets.

August — Bashing the bartender, my 10 desert island bottles, what’s wrong with mandatory calorie counts, how to baconify your bourbon, and I begin my journey west.

September — Conservatives and coffee, organizational tweeting, Thorfinn for president, why we need a magicians lobby, I get vermouthy, and why prices are better than information.

October — The McCain that could have been, Oregon neglects the pipe smokers, LEED hates tobacco, everybody loves an Irish car bomb, Rocky Mountain oysters get eaten, and my trip west comes to an end in Portland.

November — Advantages of a secular Christmas, the Arthur Kaler award, recounts of no significance, and overcoming blend bias.

December — Hello to my new Oregon neighbors, an Oregon smoking ban prediction, stocking your home bar parts one and two, smoking ban stupidity, an ode to Repeal Day in the American Spectator, Doublethinking about Starbucks, and my most missed places in DC.

I’m hoping to keep the momentum going to make 2009 even better. Tonight I’ll be celebrating with my last legal cigar at my favorite pub in Portland, the legendary Horse Brass. Thanks for reading, and have a happy new year!


Blog returns tomorrow

Sorry for the light posting. My internet access has been limited this trip and I’ve spent the past couple days orchestrating a last minute move of all my things that were still in storage in Virginia. Amazingly it’s worked out very well, given that I didn’t even have bids from movers until yesterday morning. It’s all on a truck now, so in a few weeks I’ll no longer be living with just two bar stools and a mattress. A couch, bed, assorted furniture, books, glassware, and several cases of liquor will be arriving soon. You can guess which items I’m most looking forward to receiving.

My flight leaves at 3:30 today, getting me back to Portland late at night. Regular blogging will resume in the morning.


Most missed in DC/NOVA

This morning I’ll be hopping on a plane from Portland and flying to DC, returning for the first time since leaving in August. I miss the place more than I expected to. I miss my friends, though with all your Tweets it sometimes feels like I’ve never left. I miss the constant happy hours and the intellectual engagement. I miss biking; I’m surprised to be driving my car here in Portland more than I ever did in Virginia. And of course I miss the food. Here’s a list of some of the places I’m hoping to get back to. Not the best places necessarily, just the ones I subjectively miss the most.

EatBar — This place combines the feel of a true neighborhood bar with a real commitment to quality. The food is always excellent, the beer list is solid, and Gina Chersevani has made the cocktails superb as well. The smoke-friendly back room is one of my favorite spots in Virginia; when the winter made our outdoor Sunday cigars impossible, this was our refuge. I spent a year living around the corner in a crappy, run down apartment. EatBar was one of two places that made that worthwhile. The other was…

El Charrito — This unassuming Salvadoran and Mexican restaurant caters equally to construction workers and white collar professionals, serving up $2 cabrito tacos, great burritos, and fried plantains. It was a block from my house. My current apartment is much nicer than my old one, but all I’ve got here are Burgerville, Subway, and Red Robin.

Murky Coffee — Where everybody knows my name, where I first got into coffee, and where I first started not hating DC. If not for Murky, I would have left the city back in 2005. (Thanks, Nick!)

Grape and Bean — I loved working here. They got their on-premise beer and wine license after I left, so I’m looking forward to getting back and seeing how it all worked out.

Crisp and Juicy — Of the many rotisserie chicken places in Northern Virginia, this was by far my favorite. Super Pollo was convenient. Pollo Rico was good, but serving steak fries instead of yuca takes it down a notch. Crisp and Juicy was, very strangely, the site of my first date with me previous girlfriend. I dream of their chicken.

Kabob Bazaar — Mondays and Fridays, ghormeh sabzhi. That’s all you need to know.

Birreria Paradiso — This basement bar is where I had my eyes opened to beer and was the only reason I’d go to Georgetown at night. I had Belgian ales and barley wines for the first time here and regret that I rarely went back after leaving my job at nearby Baked and Wired.

Baked and Wired — Speaking of B&W, I do miss their chocolate cupcakes with buttercream frosting. How did I get by having these for breakfast for so many months? They never tasted better than the night I spent closing down Paradiso and sleeping on the floor of the coffee shop to be there for the opening barista shift.

Rustico — My other favorite beer place, and damn good food too.

Brasserie Beck — My other other favorite beer place. You’ve gotta respect a joint that’s pure Belgian and has a beer knight (Le Chevalarie du Fourquet des Brasseurs) running their list. The apple curry mussels are how mussels pray to be treated in the afterlife.

Eamonn’s — Come for the fish and chips, stay for the batter burger. Oh yeah, and there’s a speakeasy on top.

El Rinconcito and the Korean cart on 14th and L — Lobbyists have no taste. Cato’s office is close to K Street. Therefore, despite our proximity to Chinatown, there wasn’t much good ethnic food in the area. These two were notable exceptions.

Pho 75 — I can get good Vietnamese food here, but Pho 75 is still my favorite; it got me out of countless hangovers when I lived in Court House.

Nam-Viet — If I were smart, I would have scheduled this trip during soft-shell crab season.

Five Guys — Suck it, In-n-Out. NOVA’s cultish burger franchise puts you to shame.

China Express — Just a typical American takeout Chinese restaurant, but they were good at it in a city where people often weren’t and the owners were always incredibly friendly.

Open City — They put up with my first experimentation behind the bar, and for that I’m eternally grateful.

PS7 — I didn’t go as often after Tiffany left the bar, but their happy hour is one of the best around. Few do cocktails and food as well as they do.

There’s no way I’m getting to all these places this weekend, plus there’s a few newcomers I’m eager to visit: Peregrine Espresso, Source, Commonwealth, and Gibson come to mind. What else am I missing?


Blue state bartender

A few months ago I was fighting for liberty at the Cato Institute. Tonight I’ll be tending bar for the Oregon Democratic Party’s election celebration. Oh, how far I have fallen. If IHS finds out I’ll never be invited to another seminar.

Will tonight’s crowd be filled with tears of joy or disillusionment? Meh, I don’t really care anymore. As long as the ruling party falls short of a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate and Prop. 8 fails in California, that’ll be good enough for me. As you revel or mourn, just remember to tip your bartender. His drinks may be less intoxicating than an Obama rally, but he’s honest and he delivers. We’ll see if we can say the same about the president in four years.

I’ll be back tomorrow at the dawn of a new age of hope and change and ponies. Enjoy the evening, and come the morning let’s tear down the posters and start showing a little skepticism toward the guy you just made the most powerful man in the world, ok?


An end to couch surfing

My lease in Arlington expired on July 31. Since that time I’ve been traveling the country, staying with friends and family throughout the US. Thanks to their incredible generosity I had to spend only two nights in hotels during the entire trip, in Kansas City and Las Vegas. I’m extremely grateful for their hospitality.

Thanks to the housing bust and the glut of new condos being converted into apartments here, it’s a good time to rent. Yesterday I signed a new lease at The Merrick. It’s in the NE quadrant, right next to the Rose Garden (meaning the basketball arena, not the actual rose garden Portland is famous for). As with most stadium areas, it’s a rather soulless neighborhood. Nearby are just a Starbucks, two fast food burger joints, a Subway, and a few other chain restaurants; it’s no comparison to my previous proximity to Murky Coffee, glorious Peruvian chicken, and all that Clarendon has to offer.

But on the upside, my rent is 30% less than what I was paying before and the location is nicely accessible to the rest of the city. It’s right across the bridge from downtown and the Pearl and within the no-fare zone on the train line. Groceries and restaurants are in the nearby Lloyd Center. And most importantly, it’s located within easy biking distance of the three coffee shops where I’ve been spending the most time: the wonderful Albina Press, the Stumptown on Belmont, and the Ristretto Roasters on Williams. In short, it’s going to be a great place for getting to know the city, and definitely good enough for a first year’s stay.


The United States is large

Hypothesis confirmed after driving 4,700 miles, visiting more than a dozen cities, and spending 71 days on the road.

Route 2008

I’ve finally arrived in Portland, having arrived last night after a brief stop for fantastic drinks from Jeff Morgenthaler in Eugene. This week I’ll be looking for apartments and jobs while getting back to regular, hopefully more substantive updates.


To do in Los Angeles?

There’s lots to write about at the moment, but I’m leaving Denver in the morning and traveling on to Los Angeles. This morning’s links are already up; whether we have some on Friday depends on my internet access.

This is my first time in L.A. I want to stop by the newish Intelligentsia and Lamill Coffee, but otherwise have no plans for where to go. Anyone have suggestions for what to do there?


Paulson doesn’t drive folks to drink

Catherine Rampell writes:

What is the relationship between economic downturns and the traditional vices? … A quick (and by no means comprehensive) search of economic studies suggests that recessions generally promote healthier behavior. Economic downturns typically…

…reduce both drinking and drunken-driving. According to one paper: “A one percentage point increase in the state unemployment rate lowers the predicted consumption of spirits by over 1.1 percent, compared to just 0.4 percent for beer or wine.”

Aw, man, I thought tending bar was a counter-cyclical career. This may not have been the best summer to quit my job, drive cross country, and hope to find a new one two months later.


Last capp

Classic Capp at Murky

It ends where it begins, with a cappuccino at Murky Coffee. It’s the place where I’ve spent more hours than any other in Virginia, made some of my closest friends, escaped the DC policy scene, and discovered my love of coffee and crafting a quality a drink. Without it, there’s no way I would have lasted five years here, and it’s the community I’ll miss the most while I’m on the road.

Hanging out at ye old green pole

Now, west.


Take my life… please!

With my imminent departure from DC comes a couple of job openings. First, from Cato, a newly defined position:

The Cato Institute seeks a Manager of New Media to promote Cato research products and scholars via social networking sites, blogs, and other Internet-based outlets. The position will also be responsible for increasing The Cato Institute’s presence on YouTube and other video/audio sharing websites, in coordination with the Multimedia Producer, and will maintain outreach lists of top blogs and Internet-based news outlets and assist with the development of web-based research and briefing products. The Manager of New Media will be expected to organize briefings and other events specifically targeted to web-based media as appropriate. The position requires 2 – 5 years work experience at a nonprofit, government or association marketing or public relations office, a comprehensive understanding of how the U.S news media operates, and a proven ability to promote policy issues and experts to blog and other online media outlets.

That would actually be a more interesting job for me than what I’ve been doing, though not so interesting that I’d stay in DC for it. The new vice president of communications has been a pleasure to work with and it’s a great time to join the press department here. If this kind of job appeals to you or someone you know, apply soon.

Grape and Bean is also looking for a coffee lover to take my place working the Clover on Saturday mornings. It’s a fun shop with very nice owners and great perks for people into coffee, wine, beer, chocolate, and other goodies. Contact information is on the site, or feel free to get in touch with me directly.


The case for Portland

I already knew Portland boasts the most breweries per capita in the United States, but this is even more appealing:

The small craft distillery scene has hit Portland, reminiscent of the microbrewery boom two decades ago. Young microbrewers and winemakers are now distilling whiskey, brandy, grappa and even absinthe. And taking a page from Kentucky’s iconic whiskey distillers, they are beginning to host tours and tastings. With 17 microdistilleries in Oregon, and eight more startups expected across the state by year’s end, spirits aficionados haven’t seen anything like this in recent memory.

Sure, boutique distilleries also dot the landscapes in Michigan and Northern California, but only in Oregon do most artisan distilleries concentrate around a city. Collectively, the distillers help shape the bar and culinary scene in Portland. The Rose City is now seeing a renaissance of classic cocktails, and some high-end restaurants are trying experimental pairings of food with spirits.

“The distillery scene here is where the wine industry in California was in the 1960s,” said Steve McCarthy, owner of Clear Creek Distillery, one of the nation’s first microdistilleries. “We are rewriting all the rules. The artisan distilleries are making up a whole new industry.”

Congrats also to Lance Mayhew, whom the article calls one of the “city’s best bartenders.”

One of the next steps I’d like to take in my drinks education is getting to know more about the production process for spirits, beer, and coffee. By that measure, Portland is hard to beat.

[Via Slashfood.]

One year


One year

A personal update: Today marks my one year mark at Cato and the first time that I’ve stayed with a full-time job for a complete year. Knowing my dissatisfaction with previous office work and my preference for working in bars and coffee shops, my boss wisely insisted that I commit to a year before signing me. He didn’t mention that this was a leap year, so he actually hooked me for 366 days. Sneaky devil.

But it turns out that I still don’t like office work, wearing a tie, and commuting during rush hour. And while the job has had its perks, among them getting paid to keep up with the news and reconnecting with the public policy community, I’ve realized that the PR field is not one I want to advance in.

So this seems like a good time to tell you that I’ll be leaving the job in mid-July. At the end of July my lease is up, and I’ll be leaving my apartment too. I have no firm plans yet, but being 25, single, and unattached to any job or home, this seems like as good a time as any to leave DC and try living somewhere new — which is exactly what I’m planning on doing.

Where to go? The Pacific Northwest sounds most appealing. I’m leaning toward Portland, with Seattle a close second. San Francisco is wonderful, but is one of the few places that would be more expensive than where I’m living now. Eugene? Bend? Somewhere else entirely? I don’t necessarily have to line up a job before I go, but for the right offer I would consider just about anywhere. What’s the best place to live for a guy who wants more time to write and a job delving deeper into the world of food and drink? Any tips or job leads would be very much appreciated.