Saturday, June 23, 2012

Charleston, SC, Street Scenes

The City Market in downtown Charleston.
Here in Charleston, South Carolina, it's hard not to find inspiration as a writer; I can only imagine what this city looks like through the eyes of a great photographer or painter. Even though I've got a lot to learn about photography and the editing thereof, here are some pictures from our stroll, and carriage ride, around town.

Read on for more pics.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Planning A Road Trip, You Need These Tools

We're headed to Charleston, South Carolina, for a weekend of exploring the streets and alleys and restaurants. It's the first road trip of the summer and we are stoked. We love a long drive and we love Charleston, so it's the best of both worlds. 

Even though Charleston is only a few hours south of Wilmington, I found two must-use road trip tools. One from The Weather Channel, one from a place called Roadtrip Mixtape.

Trip Planner, from The Weather Channel, lets you input your starting point and destination, then tell it when you'll hit the road. From there it gives you the weather forecast at every point along the trip. For a short jaunt, like Wilmington to Charleston, it's not much more than a novelty, but for a longer trip, like the 8 1/2 hour monster drive to West Virginia to see my family, it looks to be pretty handy. 

Roadtrip Mixtape, from Paul Lamere at The Echo Nest, is a little piece of genius. Enter the beginning and end of your trip and it generates a list of local artists to listen to. For Rdio subscribers, you can listen to the whole songs, for everyone else, you'll hear 30 seconds of each song. The short preview is fine because right now, there's no way to make it mobile (unless you go to it on your phone and play it that way, but it could be a data hog). 

I suggest generating your roadtrip mixtape and hitting up iTunes or Amazon to buy the suggested songs. It's not free, but what's a buck a song to learn some new local artists and get a surprising playlist that gives you something good to listen to and something to talk about?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Infused Alcohol - Report 1

Our official North Carolina summer drink experiment is well underway and we've uncorked (or unsealed, since they're in canning jars, not bottles) four of our infused alcohols and they are tasty.

From left to right: Lime-basil vodka, blackberry gin, jalapeno vodka, grapefruit vodka, apple bourbon (not pictured: black pepper vodka).

Let's start with the ones we opened, they include blackberry gin, black pepper vodka, jalapeno vodka and grapefruit vodka.

I was the most excited by the prospects of the blackberry gin and two spicy vodkas and none of them disappointed. The blackberries (which Lauren and I picked ourselves at Lewis Farms here in Wilmington) really gave up a lot of color - as you can see from the picture - and flavor. I was worried that the juniper-heavy gin would overpower the blackberry, but it didn't; in fact, they compliment one another quite well and what we ended up with is a (very) purple, slightly sweet, slightly ginny and remarkably smooth-sipping drink. At first I thought I'd have to mix the gin, but this is great neat and with a little soda. Even though I hate it when I see bars do it, I may have to try a blackberry martini.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Summer Fun: Infused Alcohol

Summer. Time for projects. This summer I'm gardening, I'm taking an oil painting class and I've decided its time to experiment with infusing alcohol.

So far we've put up four jars. The grapefruit-infused vodka pictured here, jalapeno-infused vodka (that used some jalapenos from our garden), blackberry-infused gin (really wondering how that turns out), and apple-infused bourbon.

Part of what got Lauren and I on this kick was a story I read on Gizmodo on How To Make Smooth Whiskey Even Smoother; the other part was a friend recommending we try it. "It's easy," she said.

According to her, grab a sealable jar or bottle and just pour your alcohol over whatever fruit, herb, vegetable or cured meat (what? I think I made that up) you want. Then you wait for a couple of weeks, taste it and either drink it or put it away for more infusing.

I didn't do my due diligence and scour the Internet for the best way to do it, I just grabbed what was on our shelf and in our pantry and started filling bottles. Who knows how it will turn out. I know my wife and I are hoping they all turn out tasty and refreshing and ready to go in a summer drink.

So, with the four alcohols we infused, I was thinking we make: a sort of Greyhound (with the grapefruit vodka and some soda), Bloody Marys (with the jalapeno vodka), blackberry martinis (with the blackberry gin - picture it, blackberries rather than olives in the bottom of the glass), and some neat apple-bourbon (OK, maybe one rock)

Other things I want to infuse:

  • Bacon Bourbon - I'm thinking a maple-cured or applewood-smoked bacon would bring some umami deliciousness to the right bourbon.
  • Basil or Lemon-Basil Vodka - With some soda this just sounds refreshing as hell.
  • Thai Pepper Vodka or Gin - Super spicy martini anyone?
  • Black Pepper Vodka - Sounds good for a Bloody Mary.