Monday, February 16, 2009

Springfield, IL: You Can Take Our Land, But You Can Never Take Our Freedom Sandwich

Darcy's Horseshoe Before

One of the highpoints of travel has to be eating local specialties. Any time I am at a bar or restaurant I make sure to ask if they have some ridiculous food or drink item that is their specialty. Generally if you find a local to take you out they will automatically take you to the restaurant that makes shots in a flaming coconut or has a scale model of the Eiffel tower made out of French fries and cheese.

Or a giant pile of heart attack.

Springfield, IL is home to many wonders. The capital of the great state of Illinois cuts an imposing figure in the skyline which appeared, to Jack and me as we were driving in to the city, to be a giant hand flipping us the bird. Ahh southern Illinois.

Springfield, for some time, was also home to one of the most amazing people I know, Ms Abby Rae Lacombe who is responsible, in some fashion, for the excellent Front Porch Sitters blog and is also a dear, dear friend of mine. Abby, being an ex-Springfieldian, joined us for our show in Springfield and, consequently, introduced me to a sandwich which may, some day, be directly related to me necessitating open heart surgery.

I use the term sandwich very, very loosely. The Horseshoe, which is so famous it has its own Wikipedia page is more of a pile of delicious heart-attack on some Texas toast. The ingredients, from what I can remember are: one huge slab of Texas toast topped by a couple of hamburger patties, covered in French fries and then smothered in some kind of white cheese sauce. There were also some onions in there, I believe. In any case it is an imposing heap of bar food which even I, who fears no burger, could not finish in one sitting.

The best Horseshoe (which, according to Wikipedia, is also known as the “freedom sandwich”) as per Ms Lacombe, is to be found at D’Arcy’s Pint. A relatively unremarkable bar, save for the heaping piles of cardiac arrest they serve on a regular basis, I will blame D’Arcy’s Pint on my death bed as my arteries finally give up the ghost, shaking my fist in futile rage at the Horseshoe for being so damn delicious.

(I should mention that I recently found this website where the Horseshoe should definitely hold a place of distinction if it does not already.)

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Right in the Breadbasket: Lawrence, KS pt. III: The Bottleneck

Nighthawks at the Diner
Photo by Jeremiah Hammerling
Note: This picture was not taken at the Bottleneck in Lawrence, KS but at the EP Theater in Chicago, IL about which I will write later.

Another helpful hint for those of you out there on the road, free pool time is your friend. Generally you can find one or two bars in any given town that have set their pool tables to “free” during the afternoon/evening*. These free pool times also usually accompany happy hours which is also a bonus. Free pool is great for myriad reasons.

1) Idle hands are the devil’s plaything.
If you tour like I usually do, you generally have a lot of time on your hands to screw around. They say that time equals money and this has never been more true than when you have a little bit of money and a lot of time on your hands with nothing to do. Free pool eliminates your need for something (which usually costs money) to do. Also, as I mentioned before, free pool is usually accompanied by happy hours which also ease the strain on the wallet. Also if you happen to play in a band with someone who is really good at pool, it gives you the chance to progressively improve in order to one day defeat them**.

2) Hey there Stranger.
Free pool/happy hours are great places to meet people. Don’t know anyone in town? Afraid no one is going to come to your show? Hit up the local beer hall with free pool, play a few games with your bandmates and strike up conversations with people playing near you. If you/they are cool they will end up coming to your show later that night and probably call their friends to say “Hey I met these dudes at the bar earlier, they are playing tonight, let’s go!” You want this.

3) R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
Many places you will play on your tour will be bars. These bars will have pool tables, and if you can play a decent game of pool against someone at the bar you gain that person’s respect. This will lead to them sticking around to watch you, buying a t-shirt and maybe offering you a place to crash. Careful though, just because Cletus put up a fight against you and your bass player during cutthroat does not mean that his house will be clean, not covered in cat poop, or that he will not try to tell you about how he robbed a bank and/or try to get you guys to “party” all night***. So, free pool is your friend then, because it offers you the chance to work on your game.

4) Bonus Round.
As you can see in the above photo, you can also take awesome band pictures while playing pool and people will think you are cool.

So after eating a delicious meal at the Mad Greek, Jack and I found ourselves in a position we occupied a lot, namely, having very little money and a lot of time on our hands. So, what did we do? You guessed it. Free pool time.

The Bottleneck is apparently a pretty cool rock club. Although we were there in the middle of the day, the lineups seemed to be pretty cool, mostly touring acts. The Old 97s or some band of that ilk was playing the night we were there. Most importantly for us, though, they had free pool and cheap beer.

We were the only ones there, so numbers 2 and 3 were eliminated, however it did give me a chance to lose spectacularly to Jack about twelve times as well as to consume some of the local Free States porter which was delicious.

The Bottleneck qualifies as a dive bar, for me, dude behind the bar with a bad attitude, nasty looking concrete floor, no door on the bathroom/stall, etc. so, since it’s been a while I’m going to bust out the old DBRS:

Tah Dah!

737 New Hampshire
Lawrence, KS

Tap: Pretty good, a lot of locals.
Bottle: Good.

None that I could see.

TVs: Meh.
Bar Games: Three pool tables (worn and lumpy just like a dive bar’s should be).

Couldn’t tell, as there was NOBODY there.

Jukebox: Above average.
Live: National touring acts.

90’s Alt-rock press photos/standard rock dive fare.

Happy hour was pretty decent from what I remember and they appear to have several of them, can’t speak for showtime, though. Also the free pool didn’t hurt.


The Bottleneck seems like it would be a good place to see a show. We certainly had a good time playing free pool and drinking cheap beer there, if you’ve got time to kill in Lawrence I’d recommend it.

*A quick search on Google usually will turn these up.
**Kelsey Crawford, if you are reading this I am coming for you.
*** “Party” generally involves watching CHUD II, drinking the worst beer you can think of and listening to his stories about all of the different ATVs he’s owned in his life. Not cool.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Right in the Breadbasket: Lawrence, KS pt. II: the Mad Greek

The Mad Greek

Nursing is a particularly handy skill when you’re on tour and broke. Not taking care of the elderly and infirm although theoretically that could come in handy at some point as well, but nursing as in “nursing a coffee for two hours while using a coffee shop’s free wifi” or “nursing a beer because you only get two free ones from the venue and you’re gonna want the other one for when you get onstage”.

Another time nursing comes in handy is when the people who drunkenly offered their couch to you at the show last night wake you up at 8am, frantically shooing you out the door as they try to pull their work clothes on. Then it is time to nurse your hangover with a cup of coffee and a crossword puzzle.

Massachusetts Avenue in Lawrence is replete with coffee shops in which to waste time, leer at the college girls walking by and nurse said hangover. I can’t recall the name of the coffee shop Jack and I found, however I do remember that they had free refills on coffee which was brilliant and that they were playing Amadou & Miriam’s Dimanche a Bamako album. Both positives for me.

After finishing two crosswords, drinking numerous cups of (free) coffee, it was time to get back on the street, maybe find something to eat and peruse the main drag of Lawrence. Much to our surprise a random guy walked up to us on the street and said, “Hey, you guys played at the Replay last night! You were awesome!”

This has never happened to me before, not even in towns where I have lived. For years. I was floored and even more so when we walked by the Free State Brewing Company and someone shouted from the smoking porch, “You guys rocked at the Replay last night!”

At this point I was pretty much ready to cancel the rest of the tour and settle down in Lawrence. Not only did we randomly play at the Replay the night before but we couldn’t have gone on before midnight so the sheer fact that anyone in Lawrence was sober enough to remember us playing at that point is nothing short of Herculean.

Lightning never strikes the same place twice and certainly not thrice, however, lo and behold Jack and I sat on the patio of the Mad Greek and our waiter said, “Hey did you guys play at the Replay last night?” Unbelievable. Apparently our waiter’s girlfriend had seen us last night, picked up a CD and told him about us. How he arrived at the conclusion that we were the musicians about whom his girlfriend was speaking, I’ll never know, nonetheless he was a nice guy.

The Mad Greek is mad delicious. Lots of big Greek-style plates full of gyro, souvlakia, dolmas smothered in tzatziki sauce. Nice big portions (they also have some, delicious looking Italian food but I was on a mission for gyro and dolmas, yum!) and pretty cheap if you can order off of the lunch menu. They also have nice outdoor seating if you happen to be there during the spring or summer. I recommend the gyro.

Welcome, Beeronauts!

Just wanted to take a minute to welcome J. Isaac Burckhard to the VA crew. He is, as you can probably tell from his post, extremely knowledgeable about beer. He is also a very funny guy with whom I have traveled extensively. He will be updating sporadically with new beers for you to consume and enjoy.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA

Hello from the Pacific Northwest!
As a first time author on the Vagabond Appetite created by the esteemed Bryce Midas Richardson, I'd like to introduce myself as Justin: the Beer Adventurer! I have been neck deep in homebrew recipies, drowned myself in 2 year-old horse piss swill, encountered barleywines and IPA's of the Gods, and some how managed to come out with an understanding of almost all aspects of the greatest beverage known to humankind: BEER.

Todays beer is SIERRA NEVADAS "Torpedo Extra IPA"

I finished packing all my belongings on a fine Saturday afternoon to move to a new location and find that I forgot to pack one of my most beloved beer vessels, the Belgian chalice. What To DO? I ask myself. Fill it with SN's Torpedo Extra IPA is WHAT TO DO!!!!

Man, this is one of the BEST IPA's I have ever had. Balanced, full, spicy, fruity. And unlike most big IPA's, the Boys at The Sierra Brewery kept the bitterness at a minimum. Lovely. As to allow the tongue to soak up the flavors before the bittering hops take over.

First off, Lets clarify a few things. To those unfamiliar with beer verbage, heres a few basics:

-IPA: India Pale Ale. ( Created By the British, mass amounts of hops in the beer acted as a preservative to keep the beer fresh on the long voyages to the troops in India. )

-IBU: International Bittering Units. (most humans cannot taste IBU's exceeding 100)

-ABV: Alcohol By Volume

-Hops: the flower contributing to flavor, aroma, and bitterness.

Okay, onward!!!

Head Retention- Because I used the wrong vessel (see pic below), I cannot comment on the head retention. It didn't last long enough to create the merengue texture I hoped for. Next time.

Body/Taste- was a deep amber/copper tone that rested on the palette nicely. The taste is well balanced and solid, with a spicy hop bite up front that imparts a more moderate bitterness. This is evened out well by tangy tropical fruits and a mix of grainy and bready malts.

Aroma- Floral, spicy. Pineapple, mango, papaya?? I expected mostly grapefruit as is usually the case in big IPA's.

The reason is the choice in hops:

The Citra hop is a new breed of hop funded and developed by Sierra Nevada and a couple of undisclosed breweries.

Now for the fun part.
The name TORPEDO stems from an invention that Ken Grossman and the brewers came up with several years ago. The Hop Torpedo is a cylindrical stainless steel vessel that was developed to harness the essential oils and resins in hops, without extracting bitterness. The device essentially works like an espresso machine.

So theres two reasons to go out and get a 6 pack while they're available.
New Hop breed and the Torpedo method.

ABV: 7.2%
IBU: 70
Availability: 12oz 6-pk, Year round
Brewer: Sierra Nevada, Chico, CA (


Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Things We Do: Superbowl Edition III


Well my chicken turned out delicious. I ended up leaving it in the oven for 1:30 and making gravy out of the juice.

That was quite a nailbiter of a Superbowl. Too bad the Cardinals didn't complete their Cinderella season, but I still put a beer can in a chicken's butt for America.

God bless us, everyone.

The Things We Do: Superbowl Edition II

As I mentioned before, drinking beer all day has long been one of my favorite parts of Superbowl Sunday. And, being the eminently responsible fellow that I am, I am usually placed in charge of securing the beer for Superbowl Sunday.

Now, beer for a football game, sounds easy right? Not on Sundays in Minneapolis. For those out there who have not lived in the great state of Minnesota, it is illegal to sell offsale on Sundays. Why? I haven't the foggiest. Minnesota isn't particularly religious, it's denizens LOVE football AND beer, and yet, for some reason, no dice on buying it on the day when the Lutheran God rests, kicks up his feet in some Minnetonka moccasins, cracks open a cold Premium Grain Belt and watches the Vikings lose. That is, assuming he didn't drink the last of 'em on Saturday night.

In fact, one year I was actually responsible for HIDING a case of beer so that we didn't drink it before the Superbowl. But All Superbowls' Eve was a little too much fun and...

I failed.

No beer, Superbowl Sunday morning, what's a boy to do? Well our only option was to drive to Wisconsin, so, in the freezing cold of early February, we bundled up, packed ourselves into my car, turned up the Metallica and headed for the border.

Roughly an hour later we were back in Minneapolis with a casefull of the Champagne of beers, and Superbowl Sunday was complete.

In honor of this journey, today I am shoving a beer can in a chicken and cooking the hell out of it.

Beer in the Ass of A Chicken

Beer Ass Chicken
1 Chicken (Imagine that!)
1 can of delicious, delicious beer.
Olive Oil
Garlic Salt

Preheat oven to 375
Take long, satisfying drink of beer.
Open can of beer, take long, satisfying drink of beer (leave about half the can full)
I am experimenting, crushing up garlic and putting it in the beer. We'll see if that works.
Oil that sucker up, rub it down with some salt, pepper, garlic salt and any other seasoning you think might make the tasty meats.
Stick-'er on in the oven for an hour to an hour and a half.

Now we'll see if I pulled this off in about a half hour... Updates to come...

The Things We Do: Superbowl Edition I

The Superbowl has always been a great day of celebration for me. Any excuse to gorge myself on crap food, drink beer in the middle of the day and sit around with the top button of my jeans undone, basking in testosterone, making Tim Allen noises at the screen is my kind of day.

Now, here are two things that, if you have never watched football with me, you might not know:

1) As manly as I am, I really don't know that much about football.
Yep. Watching football has always been more of a social occasion, hang out with the boys, watch some guys smash the hell out of eachother for a while. That's about as deep as I get in to the whole thing.

2) I love to shoot my mouth off about things I know nothing about, particularly if I have been drinking beer all day.
Also, true, although beer is not necessary. I really like pretending I know what I'm talking about, even if I have no clue. This tendency is magnified by the amount of beer I have consumed.

Oh boy! Such a winning combination. One particular Superbowl which was, I believe, the last Superbowl won by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, I found myself loudly declaring that (Bucs placekicker) Martin Gramatica was a son of a bitch and a hack. From where this animosity towards the Brazilian placekicker came I can't say. Nonetheless for at least the second half of the game I was adamant that Martin Gramatica was an asshole and couldn't kick for shit.

Ah memories.