Thursday, March 20, 2008

QUICKVIEW: Jennifer's Chocolates- +++ / $$

If there is one thing of which Rhode Island could likely never have enough, it's chocolate. And boy howdy, do we have a lot of chocolate. We have the multi-generation/location institution that is Sweenor's, Sweet Twist, Garrison Confections, Ocean State Chocolates, and Hauser rounding out the southern part of the state. Phew! I'm getting fatter just listing them.

We also have an itty-bitty one person operation chugging away down in Wakefield called Jennifer's Chocolates run by, I assume, Jennifer. A quaint, well-appointed retail area gives you full few of the magical workings and the selection. Everything is decorated with care, and the inside is clean with a few tables sitting by the window so you can enjoy your chocolates immediately, if you're actually that desperate.

You have two, primary areas with goodies lined up. Jennifer produces a wide array of things aside from just the chocolate. She has some delicious-looking baked goods, chocolate covered things, biscotti, and cookies. Next to those is a remarkably colorful array of candies. Nothing incredible, but everything looked good enough and makes a decent addition to the overall offerings. I mean, what kind of candy shop would it be without Swedish Fish? She also acts as a sort of mini-cafe, making cappuccino, latte, and coffee. This whole direction seemed a bit half-baked. The machine wasn't commercial-grade and the latte I got wasn't all that good.

Chocolate is the star and her selection is good. Everything is hand-made, I know because I saw the hands making it, and looks good. She sources good chocolate, from Callebaut and Merckens. Merckens is cool because it's local, but I prefer Guittard for commercial-scale chocolate blocks. And if she really wants to wow some people with dark, open up a can of Michel Cluizel Noir Infini on their ass. All-in-all, I can't really criticize her choices of chocolate, since it's how refined her skills are that really make the product, and she does not fail.

I was impressed with her variety. Nothing to blow my mind, but she nails all the requisites. A variety of caramels are gooey, rich, and well-cooked. She's good at tempering the chocolate, which is very hard, so we can at least rest-assured we're not dealing with some amateur. A variety of simple, yet delicious recipes gives JenChoc a real reason for existing. I especially liked the delectable almond toffee chocolates, where the toffee was light, crisp, and easy to chew. Jennifer's Chocolates is reasonably priced. A pound of chocolate hovers around the $20 mark, which is competitive.

Jennifer's Chocolates does a good job of serving up tasty treats to the local area. She has nothing to make herself world-class, but that doesn't stop what she does have from tasting very good. I liked her selection of well-made baked goods, her espresso adds a semi-compelling reason to go, even if it's not that good, and her candy selection will more than satisfy. Sweenor's may be nearby, but that wouldn't prevent me from making an extra stop for some of her recipes that really can't be found elsewhere. The chocolate market in Rhode Island is getting a bit crowded, but I think Jennifer has the chops to remain.

Jennifer's Chocolates: +++
Price range: ~$20 for a pound, which is good, so $$ seems right.

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254 Robinson St
Wakefield, RI 02879

UNKNOWN... I'm checking on that.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

About the Z5, a Semi Review

I talked about how much I enjoy the Jura Capresso Z5 a number of posts ago. There are a few things I want to add to that article to give you a better idea of the machine.

It is a quirky machine, to be sure. I mentioned how you had to play with the steam nozzle to get the milk just the way you want it; sometimes requiring fiddling mid-steam. The important reason for the fiddling is maintenance of milk temperature. Especially if you use fresh-from-fridge cold milk, the steamed milk can come out as bad as 100 degrees instead of the requisite 150. The steam system also requires a trick that most standard machines requires: purging the line. Before steaming your milk, you have to blast steam through the nozzle for a few seconds to clear out any moisture. Only then will you get ideal foam. Obviously, they really couldn't engineer their way around this, but it further pulls the machine away from true, push-button operation.

The grinder is something about which I didn't rave nearly enough. Not only does it produce an excellent grind, it's quiet as all get-out. You could run it in a house full of insomniac crack addicts and likely not wake a single one.

The espresso can be a bit weak, a result of a puck size that just doesn't cut the mustard. This machine will produce some of the best, strongest coffee on Earth, but the espresso comes up short if you don't set it right. As with most of the other problems with the machine, simply setting it in a particular way sufficiently resolves it.

The puck size means you can't make real doubles. That tiny puck also makes the "strength" feature ostensibly useless. The strength is controlled by the amount of grind and an even smaller puck will just result in crap espresso. I'm able to squeeze out 2oz from a "very strong" setting, but anymore starts visibly watering down the shot. It's easy enough to just press the Double button and produce a full 3oz, which is a good amount for a mocha or latte, but to get the best espresso requires two, very strong shots to be pulled. Playing with these settings consistently dispenses some of the best espresso I've had.

The final problem is how the machine says it's "ready" when it certainly, obviously, terribly isn't. The machine heats up for about two minutes after being turned on, asks you to press the rinse button, and then says "coffee ready." This is a lie. If you immediately pull a shot, it's going to be too cold and taste off. The best idea is to run another rinse cycle to really clean out the pipes, then let it sit for another two or three minutes. That lack of temperature control will ruin cups of tea if you dispense water immediately as its ready.

Tea generally requires water temperatures in excess of 180 degrees for all kinds of tea, even white. A first cup of water will barely crack 170, and after the tea has steeped for three-to-five minutes, the temperature has gone down five degrees, further rendering the water unsuitable. For black teas, which are ideal with water just off boil, even 180 degrees is too low. After the machine has had a chance to really heat up I start seeing temperatures consistently above 180, but it takes the machine a bit.

Again, I'm very satisfied, even with the quirks.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Starbucks Watch

Starbucks' quality is on the rise! I again was at the Lincoln Mall location and ordered what I frequently do, a triple-venti, whole milk, latte. I like it because it's fuckin' 'uge and stays hot for a solid two hours.

I was initially disheartened by the “New” Starbucks, especially after I had the worst latte Starbucks has ever given me right after the training that was supposed to eliminate quality problems. I guess they just needed some burn-in time.

First off, the new protocol to always pull doubles, even if only one of the shots gets used, has resulted in undeniably better espresso. It's still the same roast, i.e. a bit sour, astringent, with muted flavors, but that extra grind blunts the sour notes, and makes it generally more mellow and enjoyable.

And the training seems to be finally paying dividends in the quality of the steamed milk. My thermometer registered 162 degrees for my latte, which is a bit too high, but still in the ballpark. This is opposed to the drinks, before, being all over the map. Sometimes too cold, sometimes too hot. What a mess.

So, right. Today's latte was very good. The milk was thick and rich, the espresso was still a bit sour, but generally dark and flavorful. My dining partner ordered an eggs Florentine sandwich (which they are eliminating from the menu), but they were out, so we got a coupon for a free drink of whatever we want on the next visit.

We waited for the food to heat up, which was then brought to our table and the young woman asked us how things were. Having never gotten these nice touches before, I wonder if it's all part of the re-training.

My partner got a white chocolate mocha which was, shocker, potable! For me, that's pretty amazing. I've always found Starbucks' mochas to be disgustingly sweet. This one was much more mild and rich. It tasted like something worth paying for, as opposed to another excuse for a cup fulla' sugar.

So kudos to Starbucks. I hope they don't just call it done and aggressively work towards even more quality increases. And sorry for the blurry image. Blasted cell phone camera.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

REVIEW: Seven Stars Bakery- **** / $$

I wasn't going to review Seven Stars. It's not a restaurant, and it's not really a cafe either. Still, I reviewed Emilio's Bakery, so I guess I should attach a star review to this, as well. I dunno'. I'm confused and scared. Where are my pants? Regardless, Seven Stars Bakery thoroughly impressed me and it definitely deserves those four stars. The bread is excellent, the pastries excellent, and the coffee & espresso rate amongst the best I've had. Put this place on your short list of establishments at which to gain a pound or two.

Seven Stars has two locations, both of which are mobbed all day. The location on Hope Street at least has sufficient parking, alleviating some of the headache. The Hope Street location is also the original and as such is inferior in aesthetic to the Broadway location. The Broadway location is much more finely textured and warm, compared to the wide, blank, almost warehouse-like feel of the other. The Hope Street location has a (very cool) large, chrome baker's oven door on the wall, styled circa 1945. It's a glorious touch to an otherwise unimpressive interior.

Both locations have lots of windows, which let the light come in, with tables pressed against them so you can while away an hour or two, basking in the sun and the delectable aroma coming from the back room. During the summer months, they erect some tables and chairs outside to provide some reprieve to the chair-less hordes waiting for a place to sit. On busy days, even these aren't enough.

Now down to business: all the baked goods. They make sandwiches on bread that is so amazingly chewy my dining partner was unable to eat the sandwich. I'm sure there are many who enjoy a sandwich that makes you work for your meal, but rendering your food inedible to some people is just dumb. Luckily for us and them, this is as bad as it gets. It's all uphill from here.

The pastries are excellent across the board. The cinnamon twist is layered, crispy, flaky, and ever so lightly flavored with cinnamon as to just set your heart aflutter. The cream cheese danish is equally flaky, with a dollop of sweet, smooth cream cheese in the middle. It is the best cheese danish I've had in Rhode Island. Muffins remind me of muffins my parents used to eat when I was young. I remember not liking muffins at that age because I found them too rough and bready. I had sometimes wondered how the hell I couldn't like muffins considering that most of them are basically cake. Now I know why. These are muffins. Not the cloying pieces of child-sating sweetness you get at Dunkin' Donuts.

Now that I've said that, I really like those cloying pieces of child-sating sweetness. I certainly appreciated these muffins and enjoyed them, but I still think I'd go with the cakey ones. Go ahead. Call me uncultured. Just don't call me late for dinner. Oh ho! Buddum bum ching. The pecan sticky buns were illegally delicious; dense with caramel (care-a-mel) and sweet but not too, which was very well done. The brownies were a personal favorite since they tasted like the ones I make at home. Dense, not too cakey, and most importantly, a very subtle sweetness.

The croissants are as perfect as I can imagine a croissant to be. Large, flaky, light, and buttery. I only wish I could be there to get the croissants fresh from the oven, like they should be eaten. The only pastry that didn't leave me impressed with its quality were the scones. Calling them bad would be inaccurate, but they were not excellent. They were... good. I would have no qualms about buying them, but unlike many of the other offerings, I wouldn't make a drive for the scones.

I also wouldn't make a drive for some of the breads. The bread, here, is a mixed bag. Some of the bread is well-priced, such as a French baguette for $2.99, but others are alarmingly priced; alarmingly to the tune of $9 for a single loaf of bread. Freshly made bread is an experience. The freshly made bread at Seven Stars is no different, but loaves like the cheese bread, with cheese baked into the boule, were dry, and the cheese means you can eat the bread as it is or... with more cheese. Perhaps on a sandwich, but why pay extra for cheese in your bread when you can simply add it yourself?

They must also compete with some large-scale bakeries producing their own, good breads. Ecce Panis, for example, makes some damned good bread and makes it for $3.99 a loaf. Seven Stars does little to make a value proposition for their breads which cost more than twice as much. I will go so far to say that Seven Stars is better, but not enough so to warrant the prices. The pastries are not covered in this criticism. The pastries are all very competitively priced. For example, the muffins and croissants are $2 each, which is right in line with what most other places charge.

Seven Stars Bakery is more than just a bakery, it's a cafe and a trendy hang-out, emphasis on the trendy. The pretentio-meter went off the scale during one visit to the Hope Street location. Hemp bags, soy lattes, judgmental stares, and a judicious helping of facial metal were de rigeur. I'm not sure why I got so many disapproving looks. Was my fly down? Did I have something in my teeth? Did my 220 pounds not mesh well with their chic, vegan frames? I guess we'll never know.

As any trendy hang-out needs, Seven Stars has good coffee and espresso. Very good, in fact. The chai was... strange. Overly floral with bitter notes made it more like east Asian tea and not chai. It was alright, but when I order chai, I expect chai. The tea selection in general was pretty thin. Stock a few bags, it's not hard. The espresso, though, did not disappoint in the slightest. Every time, deep and powerful, with milk steamed very well. On one trip, I received one of the best lattes I've ever gotten; something I was not expecting from a bakery.

Some credit can undeniably go to New Harvest Coffee, who provided the beans. They consistently produce some of the best coffee the state has to offer and it shines through loud and clear. They choose a one of the heavier roasts, with dark, chocolate notes as opposed to the lighter, nuttier roast I get more frequently. All taken in, better coffee can be had a bit of a ways down Hope street on Wickenden, at Coffee Exchange, where, interestingly, they also carry baked goods from Seven Stars. I guess it's a toss-up as to which is more important on any given trip. You'll get better coffee at CofEx, but the pastry selection is pretty lean.

I came away from Seven Stars Bakery suitably impressed. Good atmosphere compliments a wide array of delicious, well-priced pastries and very good espresso and coffee. Since discovering it, I've made the 30+ minute trip on multiple occasions, and will undoubtedly do so many times in the future. It's hard to deny a place that does everything it sets out to do so well. Nothing is notably lacking. The coffee and espresso reveal owners who care about the cafe as something more than to just satiate the caffeine-crazed coffee hamsters there for the pastries. Seven Stars is one of Rhode Island's best bakeries and one of her best cafes.

Seven Stars Bakery: ****
Price range for two: $10-$20 (I kinda' improvved this. It's the price for two coffees and pastries)

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342 Broadway
Providence, RI. 02909
Monday through Friday 6:30am to 6:00pm
Saturday & Sunday 7:00am to 4:00pm

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820 Hope Street
Providence, RI. 02906
Monday through Friday 6:30am to 6:00pm
Saturday & Sunday 7:00am to 6:00pm

Monday, March 10, 2008


O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! I chortled in the food!

I love ice cream, but much like the food critic Anton Ego, from Ratatouille, if I don't love it, I don't swallow. I'm generally unimpressed by fancy-pants big brands (I think Häagen-Dazs is remarkably over-priced) and have yet to find a small brand that makes every flavor very well. One brand has good vanilla, and another good chocolate. I can stomach cookies & cream, my favorite, from a single location: The Inside Scoop in North Kingstown.

And, in my mind, the greatest transgression an ice cream manufacturer can make is crappy texture. Ice crystals, OH ICE CRYSTALS, my nemesis. I've tried home-made ice cream so many times I dare not try and count, and every time I am confounded. Every time ice crystals, millions of the little devils, destroying the smooth, creamy texture that my ice cream so rightfully deserved!

And it's so unforunte that, along the way to my stomach, ice cream experiences so many dangers. The plant may make the ice cream badly. The truck shipping it may be stuck in a traffic jam. The store may leave it out too long, or their refrigeration unit may be overwhelmed by the summer heat. When you think about it, it's an absolute wonder that ice cream ever makes it home edible at all! Sometimes I feel like I shouldn't bother. It's always a crap-shoot. Maaaaybe something bad. Maaaaybe something good. I guess we'll never know!

But wait, look, at this web page, light! Light peering through the darkness of crap ice cream! Could it be! Is it true! no... MORE... CRYSTALS! Oh please let this be true. Because, right now, If I want ice cream of any quality whatsoever, I am forced to go to local ice cream places. That's great in the summer, when they're all open and fully stocked, but winter brings the 'closed for season' signs that signal to me no more ice cream until April. This breakthrough could bring salvation to all ice cream lovers. I say again, let it be true!

New Antifreeze Improves Ice Cream (

REVIEW: Brewed Awakenings- *** / $$

After a number of other visits to Brewed Awakenings, I feel good about the place. I'm not so hot on the faux-quaint shopping center in which it's located, but the shop itself is good.

As I mentioned in the Quickview, entering BrewAwk is a pleasant experience. It's very large, with comfy chairs and couches littered about. Lots of wood and stone lend the place a decently genuine tone, even if it is faker than Hollywood. Good circulation and large windows give the inside a very airy feel, and it's an absolute charm to sit in the sun which pours through the large panes of glass.

Pretty much everything I said still holds. I have a number of other things on the menu and they are all good to very good. The cake selection is wide and well-made. As you can see in the image, they've got a wide selection of bagels, cookies, fruit, cakes, and pies. They also have a variety of hot sandwiches, such as panini, which are good. The inclusion of bagels and muffins means that BrewAwk is an excellent Morning Routine location, especially with it being right off of busy Route 1. If you're on your way to, or inbetween, classes at URI, it's hard to beat the selection, here. If only...

If only the coffee and espresso was better. In my cafe reviews, I'm weighting the quality of the coffee very heavily, and for all that BrewAwk does right, they do the coffee wrong. They've messed up chai on multiple occasions, now. It was very watery the first time, and has only been somewhat better on successive trips. The coffee was pathetically weak on one trip, but has been good on all others. Espresso is adequate; decently strong and flavorful, with the good earthy tones that go so well in espresso. Sadly, milk steaming is a lost art, here. It's been pretty poor on all trips. Rough, large bubbles steal any sense of silky texture that should be there in well-steamed milk.

The Morning Routine, though, is alive and well. Egg sandwiches taste fresh, bagels are dense and tasty, and all ingredients are quality. Fruit salads, for those of a healthier bent, are also very tasty and devoid of any crappy pieces and the zing of poorly washed fruit. If you just want to say 'fuck it' to healthy, they have those cookies. Wonderfully, the English muffins appear to be Thomas', which is the only brand in existence, as far as I'm concerned.

BrewAwk appears to be trying to move away from cafe roots and into something more akin to a lunch spot. The panini could be forgiven, but the recent availability of wraps, meals, and the like pushes this place past cafe and into a sort of nether region. The selection isn't big enough to be a restaurant, but it's too large to be a really dedicated cafe. I'm not sure the expansion is the best idea. As I've seen, the quality of the espresso is nothing to write home about, and as such BrewAwk fails as a cafe in regards to the very meaning of the word. The selection and atmosphere are good enough where nearby residents will certainly like to visit, but even in the area, much better espresso and coffee is available.

Brewed Awakenings: ***
Price range for two: $6-$10

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60 S County Commons Way
South Kingstown, RI 02879

Monday through Thursday 6:00am to 11:00pm
Friday through Sunday 6:00am to 12:00am

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Upcoming Schtuff

I'm working on a bunch of full reviews, but writing those takes a lot of time, so here's a preview of what's in the meat grinder...

Brewed Awakenings Cafe: Adequate espresso and coffee bring down an otherwise good experience. A very good haunt with a wide selection.

Main Street Cafe: East Greenwich has a few cafes littering its main drag, and Main Street Cafe is the best. A good selection of foods combines with good to very good espresso drinks to make it the place to sip in EG.

Seven Stars Bakery: This is one of Rhode Island's best places to go as a gourmet. Excellent, house-made breads, pastries, sandwiches, and cookies mix with very good espresso and coffee, atmosphere, and location.

Three Sisters Cafe: Good espresso, good selection of ice cream, and good hours make these sisters good company in northern Providence.

Jennifer's Chocolates: A wide selection of very good, hand-made chocolates. I find the dark chocolate better than the milk, but everything is very well made. Jennifer provides excellent competition to the nearby Sweenor's Chocolates. The two stores make Wakefield a chocolate mecca.

Logee's Greenhouse: One of New England's best greenhouses. Logee's has a massive selection, exceptionally healthy plants, a friendly and knowledgeable staff, good prices, and their very own citrus hybrids. Grow your own fruit! I recently bought four citrus plants and a banana tree.

Starbucks Watch

My adventures in re-trained Starbucks continued, yesterday. I went to two, count'em TWO, Starbucks. I hit the Warwick Rt. 2 location, in the big-ass plaza with Best Buy, and the Lincoln Mall location. The Warwick location gave me a decent cappuccino, but the Lincoln location, picture shown, was the only one to provide well-steamed milk. The espressi were good in both drinks, probably a result of now only pulling doubles and throwing away unnecessary shots. I'm still unimpressed with whatever training they gave since I'm still seeing spooning and have yet to get a cappuccino or latte free-poured with the silken foam indicative of a well-trained barista. As it stands, the best Starbucks drink I've had post-sessions was at a nested location which didn't receive the training. This is a problem for Starbucks. If I was in Starbucks position, I'd keep people an extra hour every day, or during slow hours, and just train like they've never trained before. Multiple hours every week, learning the fluid hand motions required to steam well and pour correctly. Purposely pull shit espresso and teach the employees to detect bad shots with their eyes and nose. Have them drink so much coffee that they don't sleep until New Years. I think the most important thing Starbucks can do is encourage their employees to become experts on coffee and its preparation. Produce a company newsletter dedicated to the gourmet aspect of coffee and espresso. Discuss preparation, review beans, review machines that Starbucks doesn't even sell. Integrate the employees with the world of coffee. And make sure to compensate those employees that do well with higher pay. Make it worth their while.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Cocoa Criscos

I have a confession, I still eat hydrogenated oils. I have managed to purge them, I think, from my life in most areas except for one. One food I can't give up. ONE AREA where I give myself a pass. ONE GUILTY PLEASURE! JUST ONE!

Dunkin Donuts' chocolate kreme filled donut. Oh my... GOHD it's bad for you. It has to be! Just look at it! Oh, I know it's chocolate flavored Crisco. I know it's likely the equivalent of a pack of cigarettes. I just don't... fucking... CARE.

Now, I eat donuts on a decently regular basis. Once a month, I would guess. The Chocolate Kreme Filled donut is pretty much an annual thing, though; even I don't push my luck. And it isn't, somehow, the highest-calorie food in Dunkin Donuts. It's not even the highest calorie donut. It's not even in the top five. No, the donut most likely to kill you is the Chocolate Coconut Cake Donut, at a gut-busting 370 calories per donut.

The second highest-calorie item on their menu is the 760 calorie Pastrami Supreme Sandwich, but that's a sandwich, so it doesn't count. It's actual food. No, the items most likely to put you in a Rascal with diabetes are the Sausage Egg & Cheese Biscuit Sandwich or Triple Chocolate Muffin, with an Earth-shattering 800 and 660 calories respectively. If you're a young woman, that single sandwich, without drink, will cover nearly 50% of all daily calories. Suddenly, a glazed donut at 230 calories doesn't seem so bad. And if you think their smoothies are healthy, just read the ingredients on one of these bad boys.

Now, I'm not one to point fingers. I know most of what Dunkin Donuts sells could be better for me, but I choose to eat it anyhow because it's a taste I can't get any other way and, importantly, I WANT IT. I want it, I buy it, and I eat it. And yet, somehow, I still feel a little guilty afterwards. It's because of those damned hydrogenated oils. They're in EVERYTHING. I mean literally, everything. The shirt you just bought? It was made by some eight-year-old in China by pulling threads from a vat of I Can't Believe It's Not Butter.

Breadcrumbs, BREADCRUMBS, have hydrogenated oils in them. And just because the label says no trans fats, don't think you can believe them. If there is .5 grams or less per serving of trans fats, the company can legally put down zero. The key is "per serving." I don't have ANY evidence to back this up, but I suspect that after that law was passed, the serving size on a number of products mysteriously went down. I was able to find one line of products that used hydrogenated oils and actually admitted trans fats, and that's Keebler Cookies. That they actually admitted the amount, ANY amount, means that those cookied must be made almost entirely out of trans fats.

It borders on impossible to find products without that crap in them. Since the revelations about hydrogenated oils like margarine came to light, I have basically stopped buying cookies. I liked cookies. I want cookies. But the number of cookies that don't have any hydrogenated oils can be measured on two hands, and maybe a foot. What do you have? Oh, the entire Pepperidge Farm lineup? How nice? What do I have? Oh, well, let's see, I have Le Petite Ecolier and the delicious array of organic cookies hand-made with wheat grass by real-life hippies in the mountains of Colorado. Yum.

Where was I going with this?

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Mixmaster Mike in Da House

Men are annoying. The number of situations where men will whip out their penises, slap them on the table and start comparing size is at times overwhelming. One situation that annoys the hell out of me is alcohol. Every man, everywhere, EVER, is an amazing bartender. Those girls from Coyote Ugly were fucking amateurs compared to the master that you all are lucky enough to now see.

It's amazing. Most men, if planning a party, will arrange for three types of spirits (for shots, of course), and beer. But, God save you, if you should have a bar at a party to which these very same men are invited, they suddenly turn into gourmets of all things alcoholic, experts of the finest details of everything from micro-brewed beer to single-still vodkas from Poland, with spectrographs for tongues. Every party I've attended or held with this has all the men leaving with bleeding assholes because of all the of bullshit they pulled from them.

They stand there, stroking each others egos, as though they have any clue what they're talking about. Extolling the virtues of potato vodka over grain vodka, for example. These are the same men who will later get obliterated on Bacardi, which is one step above jet fuel.

And if you have the bar, and you have men coming, HIDE THE GOOD STUFF. Men will make a bee-line for the most expensive booze you have, and believe me, they all know each and every brand they can't afford, and tell you about this fan-fucking-tastic martini/margherita/cocktail that their boss/friend/brother-in-law invented. Cointreau is the one that gets hoovered up at my house. "I know this amazing drink with Cointreau in it, it's called Cointreau, you drink it out of the bottle!"

And it's always the expensive stuff! Lining up shots of 20-year single-malt Scotch whiskey is only a good idea if you're following them up with lines of coke off a strippers butt; and you're stinking rich; and you're Keith Richards. I think that if I ever left the Louis XIII de Rémy Martin cognac out men would actually explode.

But, right, the initial reason for writing this post was a penis joke. I consider myself a decent bartender. My tastes aren't quite up to par on a number of brews and spirits, and my consistency is a bit off, but I'm better than many. As you can tell from the photo of my bar area, I don't mess around. Now, because I'm interested in expanding my tastes and skills in the alcoholic world, I go trolling for books on the subject every now and then. The discount book racks that Borders leave outside in a desperate attempt to get people to steal them is usually a good place to check.

I found a pile of books that looked really good. Nice, big pictures, history of various liquors, etc. I was so excited about finding a good bartending book for cheap that I didn't notice the cover for over an hour. Since I'm sure all of you are immature twits, like me, you find this hilarious. And, I'm sorry, but there is no chance in hell that this was a coincidence. I even went back to the same store the next day and, sure enough, every book was labeled the same way. And, strangely enough, it's a remarkably accurate title. Since, I suspect that most of the people buying this book were men, desperate to show off their mad bartendin' skillz at the next party and keen to memorize as many drinks as he can. All so that when the conversation inevitably turns to how each man is better than the others in some weird, insignificant way, and bartending comes up, his penis will be just that much larger when he slaps it on the table. Ultimate Book of Cocks, indeed.