Follow Roads & Kingdoms on...

5 O’Clock Somewhere

Drinking the World Every Afternoon

The Manhattan Project

May.27.15

The Manhattan Project

by Matt Bean

A squat package from Amazon Prime arrived at my door one afternoon with the kind of lopsided heft you’d expect of a bubble-wrapped bowling ball or maybe an antique typewriter cocooned in biodegradable peanuts. I gave it a shake and brought it inside to strip off the packing tape. This was the latest in a cadence of brown-boxed surprises to arrive that week, all gifts to a future self from a former one fortified by a few cocktails and empowered by one-click purchasing.

What I found inside the box recalled the oysters and the muscadet I’d had in Red Hook that weekend, and more directly the two or three fantastic Manhattans I’d had to wash them all down. The drinks had come with just the right amount of Carpano Antica, not the usual cheap, sour vermouth, and each was garnished with two Luxardo Maraschino cherries: deep, dark sugar bombs shot through with a lush syrup that warms the soul and frightens the pancreas.

Will power weakened by the Manhattan bender, I must have bought myself a six-pound container of Luxardo Maraschino cherries. This, I did not regard as a mistake—even now that I had sobered up.

The bar was called Fort Defiance, named after a loose assemblage of defenses cobbled together during the Battle of Brooklyn in the Revolutionary War. It possesses, like the rest of Red Hook’s establishments, the feeling that it is somehow apart from the rest of New York City. And that has nothing to do with the lack of public transit.

In 2012 I watched from the banks of the East River as the waters raged and Hurricane Sandy gathered strength. The assault on Red Hook ravaged local businesses and homes, but together the hearty folks there soon rebuilt what had been lost. They live on a frontier—theirs is not a polished part of the city, but one built from the bricks up. A bit dangerous, a bit rough, but all the better for it.

This has always been the case, from the days when Red Hook housed dockworkers and shipyards up through recent history. In the 1990s, Red Hook was considered the crack cocaine capital of New York. In the early 2000s, when I came to the city, it had been cleaned up but was no less barren. There were two or three bars— one replete with bad taxidermy, the other a haven for burlesque and performers. A band I had joined practiced in the same space Fort Defiance would later rehabilitate on Van Brunt Street, a cold, unforgiving, and far-flung box of a room that was an hour and a half from my apartment on the Upper West Side. The space did offer a baroque species of Hammond organ and low rent to compensate, but I recall dreading the trek from train to train to train to bus to get there. Gone now is the practice space, having given way to new wine bars, an Ikea, other staples of gentrification.

Not too far away from Fort Defiance in Red Hook sat a competing manufacturer to Luxardo, Dell’s Maraschino Cherries. I didn’t like their saccharine brand of garnish—a cheap, neon bulb topped by a simulated stem, but it turns out the cherries weren’t the finest product to be churned out of the family-owned factory. Dell’s would later be revealed as the front for a secret basement pot farm yielding ten million dollars in profit every year, according to one estimate. The so-called “cherry king” Arthur Mondella killed himself in a bathroom before police could bring him in for questioning but by that point many in the neighborhood knew the truth. Mondella’s casket was carried to the church with Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” blasting on the loudspeakers.

I never smoked the Cherry King’s weed, but my vice of choice–Amazon Prime–had nonetheless called him to mind. How was it that this inferior brand of cherry held sway over most bar stations in America? Luxardo’s exotic Italian brand of cherry was first made in 1905 and was likely borrowed along with the eponymous liqueur from Croatian coastal origins. Next to the preservative-laden American varieties, the cherries burst with flavor. They taste like actual fruit, not some day-glo science experiment gone awry.

Thing is, they’re expensive, and at Fort Defiance I must have reasoned that buying in bulk was the best way to support my habit. Luxardo cherries are one of those bar staples or bellwether ingredients that informs you, straight off, that a place means business, and I mean business when it comes to making Manhattans.

Do the math and a small jar often goes for 20 bucks a pop. That’s about 50 cents a cherry, a steep cost if the bartender is generous with her garnishes. I’d taken to eschewing the cherry altogether in favor of a peel or twist, if the cherry offered was inferior. Bar-made brandy cherries are often delicious, but more flaccid than the Luxardo variety, which benefits from the layers upon layers of taste provided by the syrup surrounding and suffusing it. (Add a dollop or two of said syrup to your next Manhattan before stirring and you’ll appreciate the depth it adds to the party.)

So it was that I found myself with six pounds of the finest grade of man-manipulated cherry product. Under similar conditions—too many drinks, too little restraint—I’ve come into the possession of everything from a 1976 BMW 2002 (bad idea) to a vintage surveyor’s tripod which I later fashioned into a lamp for my living room. But this was a remarkable commitment to a single ingredient, one that reflects my devotion to the Manhattan in all of its forms.

Lately I’ve taken to enjoying the drink with maraschino liqueur as an addition. Just add a half-ounce to two ounces of whiskey (I prefer Rye) along with a shake or two of bitters (or an amaro for a kick) and an ounce of your dry vermouth of choice. (Cocchi Americano works as a substitute for the Vermouth; so does Carpano Antica.)

This cocktail, so made, is called the Brooklyn. And if you’re around I’d be happy to fix you my borough’s eponymous cocktail. Stop by. I won’t run out of cherries any time soon.

[Photo credit: Sam Howzit]

Forget Peanuts and Cracker Jack, Try Chicken and Cheese

Aug.18.17

Forget Peanuts and Cracker Jack, Try Chicken and Cheese

by Emily Ziemski

This week, we’re running a series on our favorite stadium eats from around the world.

Empanadas in the Dominican Republic

Merengue blasts from the loudspeakers dotted around the outskirts of the field while fans scream unabashedly at their favorite—and least favorite—players. Baseball in the Dominican Republic has a few unique elements. One is that all baseball fields feature natural grass—infield and outfield—never turf. Another is the food.

Some go for “La Bandera Dominicana”: a well-balanced meal of rice, red kidney beans, and stewed chicken, which literally translates to “the Dominican flag.” The beans, rice, and chicken are supposed to correspond to the red, white, and blue of the flag. (Some liberties are taken with the color of the chicken.) Others spectators forgo balancing this full plate and opt for a smaller, but no less tasty snack.

The ideal stadium snack shouldn’t just taste good—it should also be practical; easy to eat and also easy to hold. Like the empanada, a love letter to flaky, deep-fried pastry. In Santo Domingo, it’s foolish to show up to a baseball game without grabbing an empanada first. There’s nothing better than biting into a warm pastelito and savoring the small drop of grease that migrates from the paper bag onto your hand.

This one is pollo queso; chicken and cheese. Forget peanuts and cracker jack, this is a classic baseball pairing. And don’t forget to wash it down with El Presidente, the beloved local pilsner.

Photo by: Daniela Batya

A Salty, Meaty Snack for Watching Others Exert Themselves in Pursuit of Soccer Glory

Aug.17.17

A Salty, Meaty Snack for Watching Others Exert Themselves in Pursuit of Soccer Glory

by Emily Ziemski

This week, we’re running a series on our favorite stadium eats from around the world.

Pork Gyros in the Bahamas

There’s a lot of running happening on this beach, but it definitely isn’t Baywatch. Hundreds are gathered on blisteringly hot metal benches to watch one of the most impressive athletic feats of all—running barefoot on scorching sand in pursuit of soccer glory.

Witnessing all of this calorie-burning can work up an appetite, so it’s important to have a protein-heavy snack on hand. Enter the gyro—a salty, meaty, hearty nosh. A gyro isn’t necessarily the first thing you think of for suitable beach food, and it probably won’t help anyone feel beach-body ready. But it’s satisfying, which is of course much more important.

Beach soccer is only in its ninth recognized national federation year, but gyros have been a stadium food staple here since the late 1880s. Greek food became a mainstay of the Archipelago when immigrants came to the Bahamas to kick-start the sponge harvesting industry. By the early 1900s, the Greek settlers began opening their own restaurants.

The thin slices of perfectly cooked pork slide from the rotisserie like butter, and are placed in a soft, warm, charred pita along with tzatziki. Every bite is a perfect blend of charred meat and cool, creamy sauce. With the gentle breeze, it’s wise to tote a snack that’s easy to eat, and will be safe from wind and sand—such as the gyro, which comes neatly wrapped.

Photo by: Otishka Ferguson

The World Champion of Noodle Cups

Aug.16.17

The World Champion of Noodle Cups

by Emily Ziemski

This week, we’re running a series on our favorite stadium eats from around the world.

Jajang in Korea

Sporting matches come with a whole lot of nerves and stress. Perched at the edges of their seats, millions of viewers anxiously watch their teams vie for glory. That, on top of the stress drinking, probably leads to a lot of upset stomachs. But Daejeon Stadium in South Korea has the perfect food to combat those nerves.

Noodle cups aren’t anything novel. The Jajang noodle cup, upon first glance, looks like any other noodle product, wrapped in cellophane. The unassuming brown package advertises what looks to be a monochrome beef stew. But it delivers so much more.

Jajang is named after the savory black sauce used in a Chinese-Korean fusion dish called jajangmyeon. Jajangmyeon is made mostly of noodles and pork chunks. The Jajang noodle cup pulls from the jajangmyeon sauce, which is roast beans and caramel. It also has what the package promises to be “large” beef-flavored flakes.

As a connoisseur of cheap noodle packs, a.k.a. a grad student, I can confidently say this might just be the winner among stadium eats, clocking in at roughly USD$1.13 per pack. And it’s a far cry from the average chicken-flavored packets.

Setting itself apart from the rest by using a liquid base, instead of the usual packet of powder, the result is something that feels a little more homemade and a little less college dorm-made. The thick, wheat noodles cling to the sauce, creating the perfect bite every time. This hearty, saucy, slurpy treat is perfect for an evening game, when the sun has set and some of the heat has gone out of its residual glow.

These packets sell out like hotcakes in grocery stores, so the best place to snag one of these may actually be a soccer match.

Photo by: Issa Del Sol

So Much More Than Corn-on-the-Cob

Aug.15.17

So Much More Than Corn-on-the-Cob

by Emily Ziemski

This week, we’re running a series on our favorite stadium eats from around the world.

Esquites in Mexico

The number one sport in Mexico is association soccer—no surprise. There’s a deep love for fútbal in Mexico. During important matches, the country grinds to a halt as people crowd into stadiums to watch the games. The country is one of only six to qualify for every FIFA World Cup consecutively since 1994.

But, the real star inside these arenas is elote, or Mexican street corn.

Esquites, the portable version of elote, may be one of the most satisfying things that can be purchased in a cup. Roughly translated as “little corn cup” there’s nothing little about the pleasure that comes with a spoonful of Mexican street corn.

Corn is a staple in traditional Mexican cooking, but esquites is what to eat when cheering on your favorite team. Some esquites are boiled, the buttery-yellow kernels submerged in hot water until tender, but the best kind are roasted in a seasoned pan over an open flame until the kernels blister and char, usually accompanied by onions. Traditional esquites must use mature corn—not fresh or dried.

The warm corn is then coated in mayo and cotija cheese. A little gooey, a little melty, the dish is then topped off with a burst of lime juice and chili powder. Occasionally, fresh pequin chilis are used, but it’s simpler to use the powder for churning out mass amounts in stadiums.

Each mouthful is a burst of sunshine with bright citrus and warm, creamy mayo, with a little bit of a kick. The perfect thing to keep your mouth occupied when you’re not screaming at the referees.

Photo by: Enid Ayala

Nothing Says “Play Ball!” Like Hot Noodles

Aug.14.17

Nothing Says “Play Ball!” Like Hot Noodles

by Emily Ziemski

This week, we’re running a series on our favorite stadium eats from around the world.

Udon in Japan

The crack of a bat; the slurp of noodles. These are the sounds that fill baseball stadiums across Japan. Forget portable snacks; for baseball fans that flood the 12 NPB—Nippon Professional Baseball—stadiums throughout Japan, it’s all about one thing: a steaming bowl of udon.

Throughout the open arena, spectators balance brightly colored umbrellas and tiny bowls garnished with aonori—seaweed powder—and katsuobushi—fish flakes. Chants rise up over the bleachers and are thrown across the divide as fans root for their chosen team.

Others choose classic fare like gyoza, edamame, and bento boxes. And though you can get hamburgers and hot dogs, nothing says “Play Ball!” here like digging into a pot of hot noodles.

The stadium food may be a far cry from peanuts and hot dogs, but it still hits on the ideal trinity of summer junk food: chewy, salty, and umami. Udon, a classic Japanese street food, involves thick, buckwheat flour noodles, nori (seaweed), and crunchy vegetables like green onions that bring color to the beige tangle of noodles. Occasionally, a generous mayonnaise drizzle makes an appearance.

Some hybridized versions include stuffing the noodles into hot dog buns, and some even chop up hot dogs into the noodles as a meaty garnish. Perhaps the only downside to this savory dish is that tossing the coated noodles in outrage over a bad call or an opposing team’s run would involve quite the cleanup. Save your edamame shells for your unsportsmanlike conduct.

At Japan’s oldest ballpark, Meiji Jingu Stadium, you can bring your own food and drinks inside—but isn’t part of the whole sports experience paying exorbitant prices for refreshments? In true sports stadium fashion, a small, generic beer is still going to cost you an arm and a leg—roughly $10 USD.

Photo by: Kagawa YMG

View All 490 Drinks