Saturday, September 4, 2010

Friday Five

The Week

Believe it or not I found myself back in Houston this week. Granted, Houston isn’t an odd city for me to find myself in, but it had been quite a while since I’d visited. However, despite my lengthy absence I picked up right where I left off, visiting a couple of my favorite places and battling the heat and humidity of August. There really isn’t anything you can do to prepare yourself for Houston weather, except maybe spend some time in South America. The part I just can’t get over is the the fact that it never truly cools off; I did my running in the morning and it was still 80+ degrees and 90% humidity. No, that’s not an exaggeration.

The Travel Note

My Miata is now 4 years old. I still have less than 17,000 miles on it. And that includes about 3,000 miles for the round trip drive it did to Houston, TX.

The Restaurant Cocktail Bar

The last time I was through Houston it was for the IT Grand Prix.[1] My friend Gordo, cocktail connoisseur extraordinaire, found out about a cocktail bar named Anvil. Unfortunately by the time we landed in Houston it was simply too late for me to muster any strength to actually visit said bar. Finding my way back in Houston meant I had to stop by. Fortunately I was about a $15 cab ride away[2] made it pretty convenient to make the trip.

The first thing you’ll notice upon walking in, besides of course the anvil logo in the middle of the wall behind the bar, is how down to earth the atmosphere is. No loud music. No TV’s. Nothing flashy. Very simple, friendly bar with a great vibe, enhanced by a great music selection. That night (among other songs) were Under the Milky Way (The Church), In Between Days (The Cure), Age of Consent (New Order) and Flowers (Talking Heads). If the drinks matched I may have found my new home.

I can assure you the drinks matched. In case this is your first time reading this blog, I informed the bartender that I wanted to start with a Manhattan, as that’s my favorite cocktail, or his take on it. He quickly informed me that you really can’t improve upon the classic Manhattan and that’s what he was going to make me. He then proceeded to take no less than three minutes to explain every ingredient choice he was making and why (and mind you there are three ingredients – rye, vermouth and bitters). He went very simple on the rye – Wild Turkey. He went high end on the vermouth (I can never remember the name of it). He went classic on the bitters – Angostura. Stirred and served up with a cherry that was house aged in bourbon and spices.

Just in case I needed further convincing, I discovered they only carry one vodka and zero cocktail olives. The way that I discovered this was a soon to become irate couple sat down next to me to order a “martini”[3], with Kettle One and just a splash of olive juice. He then lost his mind after finding out the above facts, and proceeded to complain up one side and down the other that the martini bar couldn’t make him a “martini”[3]. It took everything in my power to inform the gentleman that he was not ordering a martini, at least not in bar that specializes in classic cocktails.[4] A true martini is gin, a healthy dose of dry vermouth[5], a dash or two of bitters and a twist. No olives, and no pansy vodka. The bartender took a better tack, explaining this fact by making them their house martini, a martini made the correct way, on him. They still weren’t impressed, and finished their vodka tonics, complaining the entire time, and left.

And just in case all of the above didn’t convince me that this will make my list of top cocktail bars in the US, they also feature a great beer selection, including a cask selection. I’ve been to Houston many, many times and did not think this city was capable of supporting a place this stinkin cool. I was wrong. Anvil is the real deal.

The Five

I’m not superstitious. Well, not much, anyway. There are a couple of things, however, that might classify as superstitions. They’re basically all around sports and gambling.

  1. When the Chargers are playing I must be wearing a jersey.
  2. At a pai gow table I try to be the last person to pick up my hand, and I slowly open it exposing one card at a time.
  3. I’d list everything I do or don’t do at a craps table but, well, this posting is getting long enough as it is and I’m not sure I have enough server space.
  4. I believe in the power of the rally cap.
  5. I don’t like having 13 unread messages on my phone.

[1] In case you’re curious, the Gold Team (the one headed by Susan and myself) won.
[2] One doesn’t drive to a great cocktail bar.
[3] His words, not mine.
[4] Closed circuit to Abram – Yes, I am my father’s son.
[5] I like mine on a 3-1 ratio.