Thursday, July 8, 2010

maple leaf rag


canadian border guard: “what are you traveling with?”

me: “um….a guitar….clothing…..a computer….”

cbg: “are you carrying any firearms?”

me: “no.”

cbg: “any alcohol? cigarettes? fruits? vegetables?”

me: “um….two bottles of tequila, a bottle of cointreau, and thirty-seven limes.”

cbg: “pull over to the left under the canopy and open your trunk please.”

last year at the border near buffalo, one of the guards seemed to take a genuine interest in my tequila. wanted to know why the two different bottles. i told him i liked to switch off between a spicy reposado and a more fruit-forward blanco. for variety’s sake.

he looked at me like a dog that had just been shown a card trick. (thank you bill hicks.)

you can’t find tequila easily in canada. in quebec, forget it. this is true almost everywhere in the world. outside mexico and the us, tequila is not very popular. maybe this is a good thing,. the mexican government only allows the “norma oficial mexicana” certification if the agave comes from the jalisco highlands, a finite region, so if demand becomes too high, we could find ourselves in a tequila shortage. and then price gouging. inflation. widespread misery.

but back to canada.

no it’s not exactly tequila-enlightened, and plus, due to my trouble at the vancouver border back in 2007, the guards are determined to give me the hardest time possible. so why put myself through the hassle?

because canada has the best singer-songwriter audiences in the world! music fans here really appreciate a good song. i’ve been in ontario for three days now and i hear ron sexsmith everywhere. he's so good it's annoying.

i’ve always noticed a difference in the tone of post-show comments here as opposed to in the states. average people here like irony and dimension. in fact, i would go so far as to say that they demand it from their songwriters.

in america, i often feel that when your song veers into “funny” territory, much of the crowd begins relating to the performance as if you’re a jester of sorts. sometimes the audience keeps laughing in parts of the songs they’re not supposed to. and then after the show it’s, “you’re hilarious.” “you made me laugh.”

in canada, it’s more like, “i really like your point of view.” “i didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.” “what kind of guitar is that?” are you in regular tuning?”

average people listen all the way here.

it’s a good thing the audiences are stimulating because, as i’m recalling in horror at this very minute, the iced coffee is not. my god. this is so weak. what’s the point of it? when you’re asked if you want chocolate on top, you know you’re in trouble.

or when they try to just pour the hot coffee over ice like they do in england.

i’ve learned to pre-empt that one:

me: “do you cold-brew your iced coffee here?”

canadian barista: (cheerfully) “we can ice any hot drink on our menu for you.”

my inner-dialogue: (yes i know one can pour things over ice. i can urinate over ice too if i want to. but i want an iced coffee. not a lukewarm cup of brown water. do you pour tomato soup on ice and call it gazpacho?)

my outer-dialogue: “thanks. have a nice day.”

i’m not exactly a flag waver, but i think america has the best coffee. i used to think italy had the best coffee. and they still do have the most consistently great coffee. but i like drip coffee. and america is hard to beat so long as you know where to go. it’s everywhere now. even on the midwest leg of this tour, i managed to tap in to the mother well.

(god i turn into a blowhard when i travel alone.)

i guess canada doesn’t need great iced coffee when they can take credit for so many other great things like leonard cohen, ronnie hawkins, hockey, daylight after 10pm, joni mitchell, four-fifths of THE band, mandatory relief wells for off-shore oil drilling, neil young, not invading other countries, 17% tax on alcoholic beverages…

okay, that last one sucks.

but it’s a pretty good track record.

see you tonight in toronto,


p.s. the irony of those nerve-wracking border crossings is when, after all the fanfare, they finally allow you across and you’re like “this still looks like michigan.”

p.p.s. really thrilled to have a met a few fans on this tour who are trying out the cocktails! more to come!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

if an elderflower grows in the woods and there's no one around....


i’ve got some of this st. germain elderflower liqueur here at the apartment. i like this stuff. see it everywhere these days. it’s from france.

what is an elderflower?

why did it suddenly start appearing in restaurants everywhere?

why this art deco bottle?

these are deep questions we may never know the answer to. but for now, here’s an original tequila recipe for you. i call this one a “rosita.”

1&1/2 oz silver tequila
1oz st germain elderflower liqueur
2oz (or less depending on taste) fresh pink grapefruit juice

shake with ice and strain into a martini glass.
garnish with a lime wedge.
salt on the rim (optional)

as far as tequila goes, try to use something without too much personality like herradura, patron or cazadores. or something “fruit-forward” like cielo. you don’t want it to be too spicy or tangy as that would be disruptive to the proceedings. also was just at a friend’s where there were small narcissus flowers and i dropped one into each drink...looked great!

if served with ice instead of up, i call it a "rosie on the rocks"!



p.s. back soon with notes from my latest hijinx in new orleans!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

get your drunk "bleep" up!

* * * * *

so there i was in my apartment frozen in awe at a jim hall guitar passage on jimmy guiffre’s western suite and reading a knut hamsun novel while digesting the sea urchin sashimi and monk fish liver i’d eaten for dinner when a thought occurred to me in the form of a question:

why is my music not more accepted by the mainstream?

i mean a guy of my sensibilities. it just doesn’t make any sense.

but for real now. i was a bit bugged over having heard my song “girls need attention” earlier on the radio. this is normally a good thing except in this case they had bleeped my track every time i sang the word “ass.” and i sing “ass” a lot in that song. i wondered how many listeners might have reached in vain for their cellphones.

i also wondered what existing household other than sarah palin’s doesn’t use the word “ass” on a frequent basis, which led me to a deeper question:

does sarah palin’s household ever use the word “ass?”

and then to an even deeper question than that:

what is it that america wants if not confessional songs about love and loss set to arrangements of banjo, bass clarinet and tuba?

and lo i was struck with a revelation like that moment when the grinch realizes the true meaning of christmas:

what people want is advice on where/how to obtain the best boutique tequilas and margarita making equipment!

that's it, right?! do i finally have my finger on the pulse?

well either way, food and tequila are part of this blog's mission statement so, as promised, here’s some tips for never being without a good “margie” on hand.

first the tequila.

keep a few good tequilas in the cabinet. 100% blue agave always. (though we can discuss how this actually means 98 percent blue agave.) never blended tequila. that means no commemorativo. no hornitos. and of course never cuervo. keep two blancos (sometimes called silver or diamante) and two reposados.

DON’T use anejo in your margarita. that’s for sipping. furthermore, if you want a great sipping tequila, splurge on a bottle of clase azul reposado. it’s great great great and the bottle can double as a lamp or a space age hat rack.

i maintain a diverse selection at home, which i mostly score on the west coast. if your state allows delivery, bevmo has a great selection online. the east coast has limited varieties due to lack of popularity and also some of the artisan bottles just don’t travel well.

as far as patron or don julio, etc go, they are quality products, but overpriced and overrated in my opinion. just not very distinctive tasting tequilas.

here’s some “relatively” easy-to-find (and to afford) tequilas currently on my shelf:

chamucos blanco or reposado (spicy, lively)
siembra azul blanco (spicy, but mellow spicy)
centinela reposado (sweet, but not too much so….one of my faves)
corralejo blanco or reposado (manly)
cielo blanco (citrus-y, light)
el tesoro platinum (spicy, just awesome, but slightly more expensive than these others)

secondly, the orange liqueur.

i always use cointreau. grand mariner tastes overbearing to me, but it’s a quality product. patron citronge is just plain crap. so are most triple secs. some upper end caracao is okay and indeed they are less expensive, but you’re only using less than an ounce per cocktail anyway so why not just splurge.

then, the limes.

i guess it’s best to use organic ones, but whatever you get, they should feel soft-ish and they shouldn’t have many (if any) brown spots. if the lime is healthy, you may only need half of it for one cocktail. you won’t go wrong using the whole thing however. you should never need to use more than one unless they are just totally dry. always pick up a few limes on your way home from wherever so you’re never without.

there’s a great ceramic lime squeezer at williams sonoma. twenty bucks. the XO one they sell at whole foods doesn’t strain out the rind as well. you don’t want a lot of rind as it can sour your cocktail.

and of course, the salt. i’ve been having great luck with this austrailian hake river salt they sell at union market in brooklyn, but you should just use what you like.

a double sided jigger is also a convenient tool. four bucks. i'm sure you can get one at target or amazon. (1&1/2oz on one side, 3/4oz on the other) you can, however, improvise with a shot glass so long as your measurements are always 2 parts tequila to 1 part cointreau and 1 part lime.

oh and always have ice!

(see my blog from last week for the recipe!)

and if you get inspired after you've had a couple, feel free to make a call to the FCC on my behalf.

god speed,


p.s. and for any serious high rollers out there, deleon diamante is the purest agave i’ve tasted, but it is hyper-expensive. still, their distillery rests on a natural spring and they roast the pinas slowly for like three days, and use only a single pressing. oh lord.

p.s.s. ASS!

Friday, May 7, 2010

just the agave ma’am.

* * * * *

yesterday, i received a cryptic text from a musician friend who is currently on tour which read, “the don.”

for a tequila-fanatic like myself, this was easy to decode. my friend was at guerro’s in south austin drinking the margarita that began my obsession those many years ago.

i texted her back. “aw u btch!”

and finally, “if ur like me, ur back for another at breakfast….or 2…or 3!”

after all, it’s not like you’re in austin everyday. i mean unless you’re reading this from austin in which case, you will likely leave a comment letting me know that guerro’s is not the best margarita in austin and you know where the best one is.

the irony of the margarita is how commonly bastardized it is compared with how little it takes to get it right. it actually requires more effort to screw it up. yet nine times out of ten, even if you specify, “i’d like a margarita with salt using that tequila, cointreau and fresh lime and nothing else,” the bartender will reflexively reach for the orange juice ….or the soda gun…..or the sour mix….or the triple sec….and you’re like “no! no! NOOO!”

and then you have to feel like the bad guy.

it’s really unfair.

here’s the way i like it.

step 1. cut a lime in half and wet the rim of an 8oz glass.
step 2. turn the glass upside down onto a plate of salt.
step 3. squeeze the lime into a cocktail shaker. (you can pour back into your measuring device so that it measures 3/4oz if you really want to hit it right on)
step 4. add 3/4oz Cointreau
step 5. add 1&1/2oz tequila. (use 100% blue agave blanco or reposado. NOT anejo.)
step 6. fill with ice and shake hard!
step 7. either strain over ice or pour contents of shaker into the glass.

the thing that makes guerro’s so good is that they use key limes. their tequila selection isn’t breathtaking, but my favorite margarita of theirs (the don) uses don eduardo silver, which tastes like it hasn’t been treated too much. and i like that. i like the taste of pure agave. don’t need the hints of vanilla, caramel, currants, pepper (ok i like pepper) or whatever else. just the agave ma’am.

you should be able to recognize the tequila you’re drinking, even in a margarita. the objective is not to hide the tequila as if it were a dark secret. it’s not a billy joel record you’ve spotted sitting out just as company’s about to arrive. tequila is a joanna newsome record. not everyone gravitates toward it initially, but once properly introduced, many find themselves enchanted. think of the lime and cointreau as salt and pepper. and the tequila as meat. you just want to bring out the taste of the meat. not bury it in sauce. if it looks like a neon version of the space needle, you’re in the wrong place.

furthermore, the objective is not to get wasted. you do no one any favors by loading their drink. if the evening gives way and the night just refuses to end on it’s own, then yes, you might get wasted. but it shouldn’t be from having stopped in for a quick one.

just sayin.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

new album "girls need attention" released today!

* * * * *
hello and welcome to “the brooklyn lime!” this blog is dedicated to tequila, music, food, travel, or whatever else lands on the frontal lobes in the process. if you’re interested in where the supernatural coffee is in san francisco, texan telecaster geniuses, randomly overheard cellphone conversations, cheetos, the canadian border patrol, polanski movies, italian ice cube shortages, or my self-promotion, you’re in the right place!

but before we get into all that, first i have to tell you....


the release of my new album, girls need attention, on compass records.

given the state of the record industry, i am humbled by the selfless dedication of many people, including producer lee alexander who left behind his latest career as a race car driver (no kidding!) for a few weeks to kick this one through the goal posts.

also engineer tom schick, and my longstanding band: dan rieser, tim luntzel & dred scott, all of whom lent their enormous talents to a recording that began without any record company backing. not to get all weepy on you, but there are times in life when you are reminded who your friends are and, needless to say, i feel blessed.

we also had some brilliant accompaniment: nels cline (wilco) on guitar, jolie holland on jejusco box fiddle, sasha dobson on vocals, steve elliot on guitar, marcus rojas on tuba, louis schwadron on french horn and doug wieselman on bass clarinet. and i was lucky to have the luxury of working at norah jones' home studio, for which i owe her big time.

(click here to see todd chalfant's beautiful photo essay of the recording sessions.)

this is probably my most personal collection of songs to date and these musicians dug deep to help create the sort of raw dark elegance i was looking for. i'm very proud of what we achieved together and hope you check it out.

cheers for now. back with some tequila cocktail recipes in a few days. i'll try to pair with your listening experience.