Here’s How Mezcal Finds You

Adam LernerMezcal mogul Ron Cooper sources his small-batch, high-end hooch from remote villages in Mexico. The job takes him over some pretty interesting terrain. On one adventure, the founder of Del Maguey Single Village Mezcal is steering his jeep along some back roads in Oaxaca when he and his crew rumbles into a lush canyon – “with the most beautiful wild agaves, growing straight out of vertical walls,” he recalls.

All of sudden, there are eight Indians with rifles, right in front of us. And these two guys [in the Jeep] scream. I go, ‘Namaste. Take it easy, take it easy…’

The first thing I do, I roll down the window and I say in Spanish, ‘Hey, what’s the name of that agave growing up there?’ And this Indian walks up to me and goes, ‘You like agaves?’ I go, ‘Yeah, I like  mezcal.’ I always have a clay cup on the center console of my Jeep, so I hold it up and I ask him, ‘Have you ever heard of Rio Minas?’ And he goes, “I’m the maker of mezcal in Rio Minas.” And he mumbles to his buddies in their Mixtecan tongue and one guy shakes a water bottle, brings it up, opens the bottle and pours me a sip of his incredible elixir.

“That’s the perfect embodiment of You don’t find mezcal, mezcal finds you.’”*

*Excerpted from an earlier interview no longer available online @stationtostation

Here’s the full Q&A: Continue reading

Cracking Wise: Some Background on Lafayette’s Chef de Cuisine

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAArguably the biggest restaurant opening of the year, Andrew Carmellini‘s French revivalist brasserie Lafayette has been racking up the star ratings of late. (As ably aggregated by Eater: “Platt gave it two, Sutton gave it two and a half stars, and Cuozzo gave it three.”) This week, the Times‘ Pete Wells knocks the Carmellini love down a peg or two, with a single star review best summed up by the phrase: “I don’t love it.” Mostly displeased about the service–noting, for instance that staffers had trouble pronouncing “simple French words on the menu”–Wells did have some nice things to say about Carmellini’s chef de cuisine, Damon Wise, whom the critic described as anace technician.” Continue reading

Scarpetta, Home of Scott Conant’s $24 Lady-Killer Spaghetti, Turns Five

conant“Frankly, when I was single, I’d get dates with this dish,” chef Scott Conant once told me about his signature $24 spaghetti. (Read the full article, “Tomato King Scott Conant Resurrects Roman Regime,” in the Observer here.) Conant’s flagship restaurant Scarpetta turns five this week. During our chat, Conant also dished up what Grub Street later described as the “most detailed look yet into the mechanics of Conant’s signature spaghetti.” Herewith, the skinny on Conant’s special sauce, in the chef’s own words: Continue reading

Cicadas Are Coming! And They’re Ready For Sex

LoveBugs2The East Coast is bracing for the largest swarm of cicadas to arrive since Brood X surfaced in 2004. Time to look back at the definitive article on the impressive sexual habits of these periodical insects: “Love Bugs: Cicadas fuck like they haven’t gotten it on in 17 years“—a classic B-feature from the Washington City Paper archives, penned by yours truly. Of course, the best part of the original piece is the accompanying illustrations by the brilliant Emily Flake, which included a hilarious homage to the sexy pottery scene from the movie Ghost. Sadly, those drawings do not appear with the online version of the story today. So I have scanned and posted the dead-tree version here for posterity. Continue reading

Grilles Gone Wild [VIDEO]: A Frontal View of the 2013 New York International Auto Show

Photos and collage by Micah Schmidt

Photos and collage by Micah Schmidt

The first thing you notice about the Hyundai HCD-14 Genesis Concept is its imposing face. That futuristic four-bar grille is hard to ignore. It’s big. It’s aggressive. It’s complex. The glinting flat lines feature thin needle-like eyes on either side. Look closely between the lines to see the truly intricate design work — a rugged range of pyramid-shaped pits and peaks in perforated dark metal. “It’s a bit brutal, it’s a bit out there,” said Christopher Chapman, chief designer for Hyundai Design North America. “We’re kind of shark-nosing at front a little bit.” A striking snout no doubt, but not entirely non-traditional, according to Chapman: the shape of the polished stainless steel grate stays true to Hyundai’s usual hexagonal look, if just barely. Left and right lines bend very subtly to make it a full six sides. “This is a concept car,” Chapman said, “so we’re allowed to play around a little bit with the materials.” By the looks of things at the 2013 New York International Auto Show, designers have been playing around a lot, especially with regard to the grille. Continue reading

Pretty On The Inside, the 2014 Corvette Stingray [VIDEO]

Photo by Micah Schmidt/Blouin ArtInfo

Photo by Micah Schmidt/Blouin ArtInfo

Over its storied 60-year history, the Corvette has come to mean many things: speed, power, physique — in essence, the quintessential American sports car. Interior design? Not so much. It’s Helen Emsley’s job to change that. Continue reading

GQ Agrees: D.C.’s Little Serow Is A Big Deal

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

Last year, in my capacity as food editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper, I crowned Little Serow as D.C.’s Best New Restaurant, calling it “otherworldly…the most important and definitive D.C. dining destination of the moment.” GQ’s food critic Alan Richman, whose purview obviously extends well beyond the Beltway, just took things a step farther, praising chef Johnny Monis‘ subterranean Thai eatery as “my finest eating experience of 2012.” Continue reading

Designer John Varvatos Remakes the Chrysler 300 In His Own Titanium Image

Designer John Varvatos and Chrysler Brand President and CEO Saad Chehab introduce the 2013 Chrysler 300C John Varvatos Limited and Luxury Edition VehiclesYou might recognize the distinctive hand-stitching inside this limited-production Chrysler 300C. “It’s something that we’ve done in leather jackets before,” said fashion designer John Varvatos. The high-end men’s clothier insists on this sort of artisan detailing, in everything from suede boots to wool suits. Now, he’s sewing the same aesthetic into an elite fleet of shadowy custom-designed cruisers, outfitted with fine Italian leather, shiny black bezels and a glossy phantom black tri-coat paint job that’s as reflective as Varvatos’s own shaved dome. Continue reading

Battle of the Star Cars: Original ‘Batmobile’ vs. Clark Gable’s Gullwing

Batmobile 1 - Photo Credit Jana DeHartNot all winged things are exactly alike, but George Barris’s original “Batmobile” has a lot in common with Clark Gable’s 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe. Both classic cars come from the same era. Like Gable’s purdy-bird Benz, Barris’s tricked-out Lincoln Futura concept car, famously driven to points of absurdity by caped crusader Adam West in the campy ’60s TV series, carries the same model year: 1955. Both cars come loaded with star-power: one is made exclusively for Hollywood, the other is made exclusively of Hollywood. And last week both sold for millions of dollars. Here’s how the two star cars stacked up…. Continue reading