30 April 2009

My "Vo Door"

Le Veau d'Or dining room by Roxanna Bikadoroff

Le Veau d'Or - Before Bourdain

Le Veau d'Or - After Bourdain

Who else loves this place as much as we do? A. Bourdain

So said Anthony Bourdain to Michael Batterberry. If you'll fast forward to 4:15 on the video above you will witness Anthony Bourdain and Michael Batterberry go ape shit over my favorite NYC restaurant. The Gulf Foxtrot has always found the Veau d'Or, "a little worn." That's the point. Soul does not arrive via a concept or a chain...I don't care how good the food is. Nor does it arrive in the newly re-furbished Monkey Bar where an ersatz vibe is created to hoover money outta pockets. Throw in the Minetta Tavern and Freeman's playing pretend and you'll see the charm of the Veau d'Or. It's the real deal.

The groovers and shakers in this city don't know what to do with real because there's no one telling them what it is. Since they have no judgement of their own - - they can only listen to the drum beat that is the media or a review or a model - - telling them a place is, I truly detest this word, "awesome." It's how things work here.

So when Bourdain's new series, No Reservations, aired an episode called, "Disappearing Manhattan" the Veau d'Or got a massive thumbs up and a whole lot of new business. I suspect it will be busy for a while but eventually will get back to normal. I'm happy people will get to see the real thing and how it compares to a "theme" restaurant. In this world of bland white bread it's nice to see a place with soul get some applause. Even the Gulf Foxtrot is impressed. After watching the video she wants to go back...

29 April 2009

Custom Chino

The Custom Chino

The Pegged Leg

I apologise for taking liberty with the topic headline but what the heck... Who in their right mind is gonna have a custom pair of cotton chinos made up? I guess someone who can swing $500 for the labor and $20 for the material. The days of Steve Martin's fur lined sink and Tom Ford's $3,000 cotton suits are over. However, find a good alteration's tailor and you can do wonders.

I learned a long time ago that $10 (more like $20 today) to the right tailor could turn a baggy pair of fatigue or cammie trousers into a physique flattering base while adding length at the same time. Pretty much all the Army cared about was your haircut and whether you broke starch. Go the extra mile with tailored fatigues and you were a shoe in for Soldier of the Year. OK, I'm exaggerating a little but not much as any veteran can attest.

Take the same idea to baggy chinos, throw $20 to Mr Peppino who practices his affordable craft across the street from Bloomingdale's in NYC and one can walk away with the same effect. Not Soldier of the Month but a leaner figure made taller through the illusion of longer legs due to the narrow trouser opening. Here, it's seven inches. They were 10.5 inches before Peppino pinned them.

When the tailor pins your chinos he takes into consideration your basic shape and pins accordingly. This way the tailoring really is custom to you. For a lousy $20. How can you go wrong? You don't have to fly to NYC for Mr Peppino. A good local tailor should run about the same. It makes a huge difference with very little investment.

My Desk

The Trad's Desk

I love blogger's desk shots. There's that "A-ha" moment when you think, "So, that's where they do it." Not that you should ever give a crap where I do it. This is more for friends and family. Just so they understand why I can never find anything...quickly. I do find it. Just not quickly.

27 April 2009

A Needlepoint Sweater

My ex sister-in-law needle pointed this sweater as a wedding gift almost 21 years ago. I'll always remember her even though we've never spoken since the divorce. I'll think about the superficial nature of clothes and then I wear this sweater on a Spring afternoon and am taken back to a time that no longer exists and to people I no longer know. The soul of something hand made with the power to take me back in time never ceases to amaze me.

24 April 2009

Friday Belts: The Bellinigator

Bellini meets Alligator

Pairing a belt to a cocktail requires some effort. I wanted to go with the Bellini but what belt to pair it with? Something Spring or Summer to be sure. But not too informal because while the Bellini is cheap - - it ain't beer. Yet, there are some beers that cost more than a Bellini. Confused? I know I am.

A bottle of Prosecco shouldn't set you back more than $15. I use Zardetto. I like it and it's cheap. $12 or so. The mix used for a Bellini is not cheap. That little 8.5 oz can you see here is Cipriani and like everything Cipriani it's a bloody fortune. Why is anybody's guess. Take their NYC restaurant - If your idea of a great lunch is watching other people eat while not caring the slightest what your food tastes like --and paying $100 a head for the privilege while crammed into children's furniture - - you'll love Cipriani. The mix comes in at $3 a can. You can use other white peach puree but, while I hate to admit it, Cipriani is the best I've found so far. If anyone has a suggestion please let me know but I have to taste the fuzz of the peach.

Pour about a inch and half of the mix into a champagne glass. A little more or less depending on how much you wanna stretch it and then fill with Prosecco. That's it. A great alternative to the Sunday morning Mimosa or as a low alcohol pre - dinner cocktail . Crisp and bubbly and sweet. The first sip always reminds me of homemade peach ice cream on a farm in North Carolina when I was eight -- which reminds me of my country cousins who dared this Army Brat to pee on an electrical fence but that's another story.

The belt is alligator. "Made by hand in America" is stamped on its forest green back. Made by Faconnable and found on sale in Nordstrum's Off The Rack five years and one belt size ago. I must stop drinking that Straub beer. Love the color. Called British Tan by some shoe and belt makers it's perfect for Summer cotton suits in khaki or olive. Some folks buy alligator products on line and through mail order but I just can't see why. So much of it is about the individual belt - - the character of each skin is so different. Picking one out is half the fun. A lot more fun than peeing on an electric fence. Buena Fortuna.

22 April 2009

Hermes Abduction Deux

Being attacked by a bunch of French women in an Hermes store may seem impossible to you but as this Mylene Farmer video clearly reveals - - you don't want to piss off a French girl who can kick. I went back to Hermes this afternoon with the intent of showing those girls just who they were messing with. I was also going to ask the red headed leader of the mob to lunch. An olive branch held out between our countries and my love of so many things French...plus it would be a great opportunity to find out the employee discount.

Rather than "ze bow tie", I thought it best to wear another Hermes favorite. A unique pastel shade of green -- it really is my Spring go to cravat for serious business. Not a fan of lapel paraphernalia but I thought the Commendation Medal lapel button might communicate a maturity and discipline I don't really have. Civilians are such easy suckers when it comes to these things.

Anyway, with shoulders back and gut sucked in, I marched up to the red head who had initiated the "ribbon-ing" and asked if we might have a few words in the back. She looked at me like she didn't even know me. In fact, all of the other women from yesterday's assault ignored me as they folded, stacked and retail-ed. I sadly turned and left... a small piece of Hermes 2005 ribbon trailing from my trouser leg. Guess it's true about striking while the iron is hot.

20 April 2009

Hermes Abduction

Wacked Hermes salesgirls did this

Safely home with lots of Hermes ribbon

Those salesgirls at Hermes are certifiable. I headed over there at lunch today to have some of my ties repaired including this bow tie. One of my favorites. A very attractive salesgirl is helping me out, explains how Hermes will clean and repair my ties, including my favorite bow tie pictured here, and then asks me, "So, you like our ties, oui?" I tell her I do and explain this particular bow tie is one of my favorites. She smiles and asks me, "You like ze bow tie?" "Yes, ma'am." I tell her. "I especially like the one with giraffes."

She tells me she needs to check the bow tie as it may be a rare and collectible design and asks me to step behind the counter. I follow her through a side door while telling her I don't doubt this bow tie is rare but I'm not selling - - although it would be nice to know the value strictly for insurance purposes and the next thing I know Hermes salesgirls are all over me giggling and wrapping me in Hermes ribbon and calling me Bo or I guess it was Beau...Anyway, it was terrifying. I yell at them, "Stop it. I'm a veteran for God's sakes." That doesn't help.

I think I strained my lower back during the melee. Around L4 to L5. But I make a run for it and I'm tearing down 5th Avenue covered in ribbon. Some guy from a bodega ran after me with orange tulips saying how good they'd look with the ribbon. What a day.

There are a lot of ways to die in NYC. Certainly going to NY Beverage in the Bronx for Barritt's Ginger Beer is one way but I never thought I could die in an Hermes store. The horror.

17 April 2009

The Friday Belt - G&T for Lilly P

Lilly P trousers and a yellow braided belt

No idea where I picked up that belt. Found a green belt like it at a Paul Stuart sale in the Hancock years ago. Real gator - - I'm pretty sure this one isn't but it works with these Lilly P trousers and that's no small feat. Check out those belt loops. Scary big. You could wrangle a rodeo belt through those.

May be jumping the gun on Summer but NYC is gonna hit 70 today. Man, it's been a long time coming. Now I know there are critics of the "Go to Hell" pant but I've always had a soft spot for these. My first post ever featured these pants. Not too fey and with a blazer --very Palm Beach and right at home on the terrace at Renato's. "Oh, waiter....make mine a G&T please."

Plymouth Gin and Schweppe's Tonic

There is something so wonderful about a good Gin and Tonic. Refreshing. Tart. Brisk. Makes me wanna smack my lips just thinking about 'em. Problem with G&Ts (my problem) is they go down too fast. On a hot day I can easily hoover three in a half hour and that ain't good. Tart and brisk become lethargic and numb. Not so cool being in the bag at that fancy Worth Avenue restaurant before you your entree arrives. Here's a fix-- Plymouth Gin has the lowest alcohol content of any gin (that I know of) on the market. 41.2% compared to Beefeater at 47%. Less alcohol. Tastes great. I should write ad copy.

Here's another pointer about the G&T. Make them by the pitcher. Here's how: Juice five limes and set the juice aside. Take the lime skin and cut them into slivers. It's messy but this is worth it. Now, dump a cup of gin into a pitcher and add the slivers of lime. Then mull this with a wooden spoon. I saw this recipe in the NY Times four or five years ago and it's the mulling that's key. The smell of the limes and gin is something I can't describe. You may be tempted to put a drop or two behind each ear. After mulling for five minutes let it rest for five minutes more. Add four to five cups of tonic. I like Schweppes. Fill some glasses with ice and fill 'em up. A word of caution. Moderation - - less you end up sounding like this chap.

12 April 2009

Happy Easter

Some years ago I moved from Chicago to Florida on Easter weekend. After living and working in my ex-wife's wonderful home for almost 21 years - -I was going back home.

It was in the 30's when I left Chicago early Friday morning. The CD player was loaded with discs and it was smooth sailing until the CD magazine jammed just outside Memphis. I later learned how to un-jam the CD player by striking the magazine with a cheap ball point pen a couple times. But outside Memphis I was forced to turn on the radio. Amazingly (or not), the powerful signals all belonged to Christian stations and NPR was no match. Like Air Traffic Control, I was passed from one station to another and their version of The Passion. At first I was frustrated but grew curious as the liberal in me marveled at the music and unique southern perspective.

I made Chattanooga my Rest Over Night point and figured I'd drive around downtown and look for a proper hotel with secured parking rather than park at Holiday Inn on the interstate and listen to 18 wheelers down shift throughout the night. A sound I grew up detesting as an Army Brat.

I exited the highway and was dumped in front of the perfect hotel. Nine or so stories, brick, mid to late 19th century. Perfect. A call from my cell to reservations as I drove around the hotel --a vacancy at $70 a night. Perfect. I pull in and my station wagon filled with art (worth little to anyone but me) is valeted into a secure garage. Perfect. I check in and inquire if there's a decent steak restaurant close by. Before I can qualify that by decent I don't mean Outback, the desk clerk tells me they have a steak restaurant in the lobby. Perfect. I throw a bag in my room and run down to the restaurant. A rib eye, half a bottle of Cabernet and truffle mac and cheese. Perfect. Upstairs my bed has a down pad on top of the mattress. I lie down on one of the five best beds of my life. Perfect. And I dream...

I'm in a nondescript office waiting room. A man walks in and tells me, "Jesus will see you now." I get up and follow the man into another nondescript room. Jesus sits on a metal folding chair in the middle of the room in a white robe with his legs crossed. His bare feet in sandals. A clip board on his lap. I sit down in the empty folding chair across from him and cross my legs. The man leaves us in the room alone.

Jesus raises the clip board and starts to read from it but before he does there's a glance at my feet as he lowers the clip board and smiles, "Before we begin, I just wanted to comment on your socks. They're always so colorful." I look at my socks and look up at Jesus, "You like my - - socks?" Jesus leans forward, "Absolutely, I can tell you really make an effort." I ask, "That pleases you, Jesus?" "Yes," He says. "If it pleases you - - It pleases me." And I woke up.

I lay in bed that night and thought about the dream and realized how calm I was. I easily fell back to sleep and the next morning I watched the sun rise and reflected on the dream. Still unsure of what it meant but smiling to myself as I turned the radio on and headed home. Happy Easter.

10 April 2009

The Friday Belt: Ranger Straub

Straub Beer and The Ranger Belt

The Straub Case - - It deserves a frame

Back in the mid 80's, I worked as a National Park Ranger at Valley Forge. I had transferred from the Statue of Liberty - Ellis Island National Monument and I distinctly remember two things about that move. The cost of living at Valley Forge was a huge relief from NYC and visiting my first PA Beer Store. My friend (may I call you my friend?)...Beer Stores rule.

I remember walking into these massive warehouses and being amazed by the overwhelming selection of beers. Cheap, expensive, well known and unknown. It was like some kind of Beer Heaven. Back then (and today) I adhered to one of the golden rules from Trad Dad. "Drink the local stuff." I picked Valley Forge Beer, brewed less than ten miles away, for it's cool label, the obvious connection to work and most importantly the price-- $5 or $6 for 24 sixteen ounce bottles. When you're a GS-5, price is key. There were six of us (GS-5s) living in Lord Stirling's quarters on Yellow Springs Road. There were four refrigerators. Three were filled with beer. We were so happy.

Valley Forge Beer is long gone but I recently discovered Straub Beer. Unpasteurized (a wonderful definition for any food) and made without salt, sugar or preservatives...it's unique. The Dark and the Lite do nothing for me but their regular beer you see pictured above (in a 16oz bottle) is damned good. It's not gonna win any medals (actually it has won some medals) but at $19 a case (did I tell you they're 16 ounce bottles?) - it's a perfect summer beer. You know... When you're having more than one. OK, when you're getting loaded.

There are people who claim due to the natural ingredients you can't get a hangover. I'll report back to you on that. The case price works out to less than .60 cents for 12 ounces. Baby, that's Trad. But unless you live in PA or OH you're gonna have a tough time tracking it down. I found mine at Bella Vista Beer & Soda in South Philadelphia on 11th and Fitzwater. My advice for your next trip to Philadelphia is to drop the family off at the Independence Sites and head over to Bella Vista in a station wagon.

The Ranger Belt is not so hard to find but it is cheap. LL Bean. Brooks Brothers. Police equipment catalogs. Tack shops. Roll over a rock and you'll find one. Oddly enough, we didn't wear a belt like this in the Park Service. As Rangers we wore something wider and very "western" looking and I don't mean "western" in a good way. That tooled leather design of acorns and stuff I never quite figured out. A big gaudy brass buckle. Not nearly as cool as the Ranger Belt which looks great with anything casual. Hell, it looks great with a cheap beer. Not so much with a G & T. That's for next week.

09 April 2009

Waxed Cotton

Willis & Geiger Parka circa 1986

Willis Geiger waxed cotton as it starts to fade

Barbour Ducks Unlimited Special Edition

A little too new for me

Barbour Beaufort from 2000

Fairly new and green. Something of a cliche.
The Barbour Border in Blue

The blue is almost gone

So is this sleeve

I love the patina that comes with vintage waxed cotton after years of wear and tear. The older and more beat up it gets the better it looks. There's a marked difference between us Yanks and the Brits when it comes to patina. Most Yanks abhor it. "My God, did you see his shirt cuff? It was frayed!"

We tend to chuck stuff at the first sign of wear. Hell, even US retailers market to us with this in mind. But if these pictures show anything - - it's the remarkable character waxed cotton takes on when it dries out, crusts up and fades into a soft hue. God forgive me - - I do love it so. Here's the look I'm gunning for- - check out Ted's Barbour here from this Ted & Ralph skit from The Fast Show.

06 April 2009

The Trad Sets a Trend: Layered Bow Tie

What the Bow Tie has been missing.

When one's not enough and three's too many.
Had a dream over the weekend that I was wearing two regular ties-- one on top of the other. I was wandering around the executive offices of Brooks Brothers when Claudio sees my two ties and runs up to me screaming, "You're a genius! A genius! More-a ties for me-a to sell! I love this-a man. Someone hire him-a now." And that was before the really good dream.

I tried to replicate the two ties from the dream but it just didn't work and April Fools had come and gone. Then I thought, "The Layered Bow Tie!" It really works and I like...invented it. Like the Trouser Cuff Square, the Trad is forever on the cutting edge. I think this is really gonna take off. I mean it. Mark my words...It's-a genius. Anyone know how to do that patent thing?

03 April 2009

The Friday Belt- Hermes & Rye

Hermes Belt and Old Overholt Rye

Mistakes? I've made a few. Old Overholt is a cheap rye whiskey (made from rye - not corn) whose acquaintance I made in the Army. The Class 6 store on post sold this stuff for spit and for what it is - - it ain't bad. What I did with it... was bad. The Boilermaker. Sounds good in front of a bunch GIs at the bar in the XVIII Airborne Corps NCO Club. "Shot of Overholt and a draft, please." You get the respected nod from the bartender and the 1st Sergeant a couple stools down thinks you're older than you look. Only one warning. Do not get over served. It produces the hangover from Hell.

The Hermes Belt is a nice contrast to Old Overholdt. I may be the first to associate the two together...and for that I'm very proud. A very expensive way to hold up your trousers and it's sure to leave you with a hangover as well. Actually, more monetary regret than hangover but you get the idea. A beautiful and well made belt - - for women. Just my opinion. Maybe it'll change but I doubt it. A little too affected for men in my book. But I love it on women and see it often in NYC...jeans with a husky coat and Belgian loafers. Very Trad. Wouldn't it be interesting to get the man who wears an Hermes belt together with the woman who drinks Old Overholt...