Golden Guys

“Where streams of whiskey are flowing…” –The Pogues

Part six of my S&R Tokyo Series

One November day in Tokyo my wife and I were walking through the normally quiet and deserted midday streets of Golden Gai in Shinjuku. Suddenly I heard voices singing loudly to a very mainstream-sounding J-pop song. I followed the raucous sounds to a little dive which, unlike the other dives around it, had its front door wide open. Inside a bartender and three customers were joyously boozing it up and singing like contestants trying out for a television talent show.

And so, after calling my wife over to have a look we unexpectedly found ourselves sitting in a teeny Golden Gai bar ordering drinks at 12:30 in the afternoon.

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Four ways to tell if “Carolina style” barbecue is authentic

Short version: it isn’t. There’s no such thing as “Carolina style” barbecue.

The Chopped Plate from Mr. BBQ, the best barbecue restaurant in Winston-Salem, NC

The Chopped Plate from Mr. BBQ, the best barbecue restaurant in Winston-Salem, NC

I grew up in North Carolina, about 25 minutes from Lexington, the Barbecue Capital of the World. I suppose I sort of took this remarkable food for granted when I was younger. We’d go to Country Kitchen down at Gumtree Rd and Highway 52 when I was a kid and there was just nothing better in life than a chopped sandwich with a side of hush puppies. Later on, as I moved around, I’d frequent Mr. BBQ, Hill’s, Stratford BBQ and Pig Pickin’s in Winston-Salem. When I ventured down toward Lexington there were all kinds of options. For a while I favored Speedy’s, then Hog City came along and rocked the world. Through it all, of course, there was the old No. 1, Lexington BBQ, down on Highway 64, which Southern Living has justly called the best barbecue in the South. Even regular restaurants would often have barbecue on the menu. Continue reading

Yakuza leisure dōjō

Let’s alcohol with happy gangster human…

Third in my ongoing S&R Tokyo Series. Here’s part one and part two.

In Asakusa at Kamiya Bar (神谷バー) you never know who you might meet. My wife and I were drinking there one night in November, 2015 with an Australian friend and her Japanese husband. The tables in Kamiya Bar are packed closely together, so we couldn’t help notice that the people at the next table were having a hell of a good time.

I took a chance and asked if I could photograph them. They happily agreed.

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Waiting at the Mark Hopkins

See in his face what you will…

Yesterday I photographed a luncheon for a San Francisco lawyers’ group in the Peacock Court at the Mark Hopkins Hotel. During a down moment I noticed this food server at the ready and looking completely patient, professional, but also a bit procedurally weary. I admired the combination of those three elements in him, and wanted to honor the man by preserving the moment…

(Mark Hopkins Hotel, San Francisco 2017. See my other work here and here.)

Dogs and fracking and beer is food – Denver deserves better than Mayor Michael Hancock

I asked Michael Hancock a straight question and got a dishonest answer. Then there’s his kneepads and chapstick service for the frackersbeer-is-food

I recently sent an inquiry to the office of Denver mayor Mike Hancock asking about his position about the city’s recent crackdown on dogs being allowed in tasting rooms. We mile-highers love taking the pups to our favorite microbreweries, but earlier this year the authorities started showing up and telling management that this was illegal.

Because – check this – beer is food. Continue reading

Be this guy

A dad with grace and humor for #HopeTuesday…

She was chewing on a French pastry, he had her pacifier in his mouth. I’m not a dad so I don’t know how these things work, but the incongruity of it was surprising and delightful. I also think this man showed a lot of humor and grace by keeping his kid’s chew toy in his mouth so some stranger could snap a picture of him in public.

I figure if I had ever decided to be a father, I’d have wanted to be this guy instead of the tight-ass my own dad was…

(Midtown Market, Brisbane, California 2016. See more of my work here.)

Determination

Snack it up on human moments for #HopeTuesday

I don’t know about you, but my Facebook and Twitter feeds are saturated with links to media coverage of the race to the White House between TweedleBint and TweedleBitch. I’ve grown physically weary of the topic, and the climate of fear and anger that has washed over my country because of it. I found the best way to recede from this madness is by taking time to look around me at people and what they do. Observing such things brings a sweetness and a kind of joy to life that no fascist or machine-politician president can take away from us. I really believe that.

And there’s hope in this, which is why I pursue it and why I’m encouraging all of you to do likewise. You don’t even have to plan anything, just savor the unexpected moments life is throwing at you right now.

For example, recently at a Mexican supermercado I encountered a little girl who really wanted the hell out of some Cheetos. She knew I was watching, and didn’t care. She would not be denied, and so…

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Praise the lord, pass the steak sauce

It’s Sunday so, you know, nuns…

I was photographing a wedding dinner at Original Joe’s in North Beach. If you go, order the veal piccata. It’s fantastic. Anyway, it was hard not to notice these six nuns as they walked by the table where my wife and I were awaiting our meal. Right after the waiter handed these ladies their menus, I walked up to their table and said “Sisters, I’ve never seen this many nuns seated at a table in a public restaurant. May I take a picture of all of you?”

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My memoir: Sam vs Peaches

I’m the Forrest Gump of apples.

My favorite desserts often involve apples. Apple pie, apple cobbler, apple crisp, apple tarts, baked apples, apple dumplings, stewed apples, apple danish, apple butter, apple kugel, applesauce, apple cake, apple cookies – especially those soft Archways… [sigh] I’m sort of the Forrest Gump of apples.

But my childhood was a frustrating one. My grandmother (I lived with my grandparents) was a great baker, and her pies and cobblers were delicious. Obviously I wanted apple pie and apple cobbler. Like, every meal.

But I had a problem: my grandfather preferred peaches. Continue reading

New Year’s Eve cocktails and libations: cheers from Scholars and Rogues

With the new year nearly upon us, our thoughts have turned to a bit of end of the year celebrating. I asked my fellow Scrogues for some recipes and recommendations for appropriate libations with which to ring in 2016.

Some of the recipes below are, not surprisingly, a bit–involved–shall we say. Weeks of aging, hours of simmering, days for delivery–all are par for the course for people who have sought the unusual, creative, or just plain tasty. Even if you can’t get immediate gratification with some of the recipes below, you can always plan ahead for next New Year’s Eve. Or for a festive midwinter night when the cabin walls have closed in just a little too tightly.

From all of us, Happy New Year. Cheers, Santé, Prost, Na zdrowie, Salud, Sláinte, L’chaim. Continue reading

Biscottii Goddess is awesome. Just saying.

I don’t normally pimp products and services, although perhaps I should. I, like most of the staff and many of our readers, am a dedicated consumer of local, hand-made, craft and independent everything and tend to avoid mass production/corporate retailers and goods when possible.

Not long ago I reconnected, thanks to the magic of social media, with an old college friend, Wheeler Wood. Turns out he now runs a small biscotti business. Well, I loves me some biscotti, and he kindly offered to send me a sample or two to see what I thought.

Holy hell, this stuff is good. Continue reading

Dear Scratch Burrito: WTF is with your sweetener policy?

There’s this thing I have begun encountering in a certain sort of restaurant. It’s not a good thing. I first ran across this policy at a place I used to eat in Bend, OR, and it happened again tonight at Scratch Burrito here in Denver.

I went in, ordered a burrito bowl and an iced tea. Paid, found a table, went to the drink station and got my tea. Looked around and couldn’t find any sweetener. So I go back to the counter. Would you like regular sugar or agave, the guy asks. No, no, I need artificial, I reply – Sweet-n-Low, if you have it? Sorry sir, we only have natural sweeteners. Continue reading

10-second beer review: New Belgium Trippel

While New Belgium‘s transformation through the years from kick-ass Colorado craft brewer to pretty big time national brewer resulted in a predictable decline in quality of the product, it must be acknowledged that the Trippel remains a not-half-bad Belgian for your basic no-special-occasion drinking pleasure. 1554 isn’t bad, either.

I wish Fat Tire was what it was back in 1993, though. Also, bring back Old Cherry.

Hornstra Farms: local hero, redux

Local, natural, community focused: Massachusetts’ Outstanding Dairy Farm is thriving.

IMG_0412When we last visited John Hornstra five years ago, he had just bought a local farm here in the pretty affluent suburbs south of Boston, and had grand plans. Hornstra had delivered our milk (in glass bottles!) for years when we lived in Massachusetts, and he still delivers the same milk (and chocolate milk, and egg nog at Christmas) to my daughter’s family. But he had plans—to build his recently purchased farm into a local community place, a place for kids (and not just kids) to see how farms work, and to get real food. Most important was his plan to bring dairy farming back to the area that his family had lived in, and been dairy framers in, for several generations. So how’s that working out? Continue reading