Galloping into Enlightenment: “Napoleon: A Life” by Andrew Roberts

best napoleon biographyFor a pleasurable holiday read, Andrew Roberts biography, Napoleon: A Life (2014), is a 810-page gift to be enjoyed for the fascinating and easily accessible history lesson about the “founder of modern France and one of the great conquerors of history.”

Considered the definitive biography of the soldier-statesman who once said, “What a novel my life has been,” it has received numerous awards, such as Winner of the Grand Prix of the Foundation Napoleon, and was listed as a New York Times Notable Book and included in Amazon’s “100 Biographies and Memoirs to Read in a Lifetime” list.

With a small amount of effort, but without being a strenuous chore like so many history lessons can be, Mr. Robert’s book is a “biography worthy of its subject: magisterial, insightful, beautifully written, by one of our foremost historians.” It is, as The Economist writes, the “first single-volume general biography to make full use of the treasure trove of Napoleon’s 33,000-odd letters, which began being published in Paris only in 2004.”

An exhaustively researched book that took Mr. Roberts, as he wrote in the introduction, “longer than Napoleon spent on Elba and St. Helena put together”, Mr. Roberts believes that his book stands apart from the vast majority of Napoleon biographies in detailing a more accurate portrait of Napoleon’s character and personality, aided by his visit to 53 of Napoleon’s 60 battle sites, a boat trip to St. Helena and the discovery of new and crucial archived documents.

Furthermore, Mr. Roberts dispels the notion that “the Napoleon Complex” led to Napoleon’s demise:

“My own interpretation is very different from other historians. What brought Napoleon down was not some deep-seated personality disorder but a combination of unforeseeable circumstances coupled with a handful of significant miscalculation: something altogether more believable, human and fascinating.”

Recognizing Napoleon’s legacy as “one of the most fiercely debated in all of modern historiography,” Mr. Roberts makes clear that there is no debate as to what he considers Napoleon’s greatest victories:

“…his greatest and most lasting victories were those of his institutions, which put an end to the chaos of the French Revolution and cemented its guiding principle of equality before the law…[t]oday, the Napoleonic Code forms the basis of law in Europe and aspects of it have been adopted by 40 countries spanning every continent except Antarctica.”

He continues: “Napoleon’s bridges, reservoirs, canals and sewers remain in use throughout France. The French foreign ministry sits above the stone quays he built along the Seine, and the Cour des Comptes still checks public spending accounts more than two centuries after Napoleon founded it. The Legion d’Honneur, an honor he introduced to take the place of feudal privilege, is highly coveted; France’s top secondary schools, many of them founded by Napoleon, provide excellent education and his Conseil d’Etat still meets every Wednesday to vet laws.”

“Even if Napoleon hadn’t been one of the great military geniuses of history,” Mr. Robrts writes, “he would still be a giant of the modern era.”

Accordingly, Mr. Robert’s book about Napoleon (1769-1821) – one of the world’s greatest leaders and inspiring statesman – truly is a gift of enlightenment that he feels would behoove those in leadership in Washington today:

“A key aspect of modern American political leadership is the ability to compartmentalize one’s mind, so that one can concentrate entirely upon a problem, make a decision and then concentrate in an equally focused way on something else entirely,” Mr. Roberts writes in an essay for the Wall Street Journal. “In this, Napoleon was a master, managing to write the rules for a girls’ school on the eve of the Battle of Borodino in 1812 and the regulations for the Comédie Française while living in the Kremlin after having captured Moscow a week later.”

He continues “…the contenders for the White House in 2016 would do well to look to Napoleon for guidance and inspiration, not just for how to run their campaigns but, once in office, for how to conduct themselves as chief executive.”

It is in the spirit of All Things Enlightening that ATG gallops forth into the New Year with quotes below from the man who was said to represent the “Enlightenment on Horseback”:

  • “A general’s most important talent is to know the mind of the soldier and gain his confidence, and in both respects the French soldier is more difficult to lead than another. He is not a machine that must be made to move, he is a reasonable being who needs leadership.” – Napoleon to Chaptal
  • “I sensed that fortune was abandoning me. I no longer had in me the feeling of ultimate success, and if one is not prepared to take risks when the time is ripe, one ends up doing nothing.” – Napoleon on the Waterloo campaign
  • “The masses…should be directed without their being aware of it.” – Napoleon to Fouche, September 1804

Quotes from

  • “If you want a thing done well, do it yourself.”
  • “Impossible is a word to be found only in the dictionary of fools.”
  • “Death is nothing, but to live defeated and inglorious is to die daily.”
  • “I start out by believing the worst.”
  • “Men of genius are meteors, intended to burn to light their century.”
  • “Adversity is the midwife to genus.”
  • “Imagination rules the world.”
  • “I am never angry when contradicted, I seek to be enlightened.”
  • “I have never found the limit of my capacity for work.”
  • “We will walk faster when we walk alone.”
  • “Great ambition is the passion of great character. He who is endowed with it, may perform either very great actions, or very bad ones; all depends upon the principles which direct him.”

Stepping into Beauty

life and times isabella stewart gardner“If you invest in beauty it will be with you all the days of your life.” – Frank Lloyd Wright (American architect, designer and writer, 1867-1959)

Isabella Stewart Gardner (1840-1925) was a woman whose life fully embodied the above quote from Frank Lloyd Wright – and a visit to her museum in Boston allows one to experience all of the beauty that she collected during her travels around the world.

From master paintings, sculptures and tapestries, to objects such as Napoleon’s letters, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is even more striking during the holiday season, with hundreds of vibrant red amaryllis beautifully poised in the courtyard that seem to speak to Mrs. Gardner’s exuberance for life.

Described as a “cultural maverick” and a “formidable leader…muse, mentor, patron, collector, connoisseur, and designer” by Douglass Shand-Tucci in The Art of Scandal, Mrs. Gardner became famous through her unconventional ways and as a wealthy Boston arts patron. She was also deeply appreciated for what the museum’s website describes as her “zest for life, her energetic intellectual curiosity, and her love of travel.”

 gardner museum heistBuilt in 1899-1901 as a replica of a 15th century Venetian palazzo that she visited during her travels in Italy, the museum opened to the public in 1903 and was to serve as her home and a work of art for the “education and enjoyment of the public.”

A gift of enjoyment it certainly is. The beauty Mrs. Gardner surrounded herself with has not only lasted a lifetime, but has continued to bloom as a pleasurable experience for the public – lifting, inspiring and celebrating all that is good and beautiful in the world, in man and in the “realms” beyond.

Of Interest: 13 museum pieces worth over $200 million, including Rembrandt’s “The Storm on the Sea of Galilee” (1633) and Vermeer’s “Concert” (1664) were stolen from the museum in March 1990 by two men who posed as Boston police. The paintings and objects that were taken range in age from 130 to 3,000 years old. The Gardner Museum heist has never been solved.  A book by Boston Globe reporter Stephen Kurkjian, called Master Thieves, was published in March 2015.

Talking Points for 1995

Wifi JokeAmong the charming allure of “The Elephant House” coffee shop in Edinburgh, Scotland – known as the “Birthplace of Harry Potter” – is this refreshingly simple sign that encourages us to put down our phones, close our laptops, remove our headphones and…TALK!

If we were to “pretend it’s 1995”, here are a few “talking points”:

1995 New York Times Top Fiction Books (in no particular order):

Five Days in Paris by Danille Steel

The Lost World by Michael Crichton

Silent Night by Mary Higgins Clark

The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans

The Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan

Coming Home by Rosamunde Pilcher

Beach Music by Pat Conroy

The Children’s Book of Virtures by William J. Bennett

1995 New York Times Top Non-Fiction Books (in no particular order):

Lincoln by David Herbert Donald

The Road Ahead by Bill Gates with Nathan Myhrvold and Peter Rinearson

My American Journey by Colin Powell

Charles Kuralt’s America by Charles Kuralt

A Simple Path by Mother Teresa

Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus by John Gray

The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra

The Martha Stewart Cookbook by Martha Stewart

David Letterman’s Book of Top Ten Lists by David Letterman

The Moral Compass by William J. Bennett

My Point….And I Do Have One by Ellen DeGeneres

1995 Top Movies (in no particular order):

Braveheart – Mel Gibson

Toy Story – Tim Allen and Tom Hanks

Usual Suspects – Kevin Spacey

Apollo 13 – Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon

Casino – Robert DiNero, Joe Pesci and Sharon Stone

Dead Man Walking – Susan Sarandon, Sean Penn

Sense & Sensibility – Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet

While You Were Sleeping – Sandra Bullock, Bill Pullman

American President – Annette Bening, Michael Douglas, Martin Sheen, Richard Dreyfus, Michael J. Fox

Crimson Tide – Denzel Washington, Gene Hackman, James Gandolfini

Leaving Las Vegas – Nicholas Cage and Elizabeth Shue

Se7en – Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman, Kevin Spacey, Gwyneth Paltrow

1995 Some Top Albums (in no particular order)

Alanis Morissette – Jagged Little Pill

Smashing Pumpkins – Mellon

Hootie & The Blowfish – Cracked

The Beatles – Anthology 1

Live – Throwing Copper

Garth Brooks – The Hits

Mariah Carey – Daydream

Oasis – What’s the Story Morning

The Rolling Stones – Stripped

Enya – The Memory of Trees

Light and Dark: Maxfield Parrish and James Nachtwey

james nachtwey photography“There has always been war,” says James Nachtwey, a multi-award winning photojournalist. “War is raging throughout the world at the present moment. And there is little reason to believe that war will cease to exist in the future. As man has become increasingly civilized, his means of destroying his fellow man have become ever more efficient, cruel and devastating.”

He continues: “Is it possible to put an end to a form of human behavior which has existed throughout history by means of photography? The proportions of that notion seem ridiculously out of balance. Yet, that very idea has motivated me.” 

James Nachtwey, born in 1948, has spent a lifetime documenting historical events around the world through photography, as seen in the exhibit, “Witness to History: James Nachtwey—Afghanistan, Ground Zero, Iraq“, currently on display at the Currier Gallery of Art in New Hampshire.

An emotional, jaw-dropping experience, the exhibition “reveal[s] war’s tragic effect on combatants and civilians, and includes highly personal images of American troops and their families, as well as photographs of Iraqi and Afghani civilians and their families” (quote from gallery website).

From his iconic images of the collapse of the South Tower with the cross of the Church of St. Peter in the foreground, to the dramatic 30-foot-long black and white mural of prints of American soldiers in the chaotic aftermath of being wounded and receiving medical treatment and of the doctors who are treating them, James Nachtwey’s photographs leave one looking for the nearest bench to quietly reflect and ponder the unpredictable chaos of war.

Juxtaposing Nachtwey’s solemn, dark and tragic photographs is the work of Maxfield Parrish, an artist who captures the fantastical radiance and light of autumn, also on display at the Currier Gallery of Art in an exhibit entitled “Maxfield Parrish: The Power of Print.”

Maxfield Parrish: A retrospective
“Daybreak” (1922) as seen on cover of the book “Maxfield Parrish: A Retrospective.”

Parrish (1870-1966), considered one of America’s greatest illustrators of the 20th century, was known for the intense luminosity of his paintings that beguile, captivate and awaken something deep within. “You don’t look at a Maxfield Parrish; you look into it, feeling it beckon you to enter,” writes Bruce Watson in the Smithsonian Magazine.

Parrish was also known for the photorealism of his lush landscapes and for magical scenes of enchanted fantasy and for the “Parrish Blue” color – a surreal indigo that colored the skies and waters of his paintings.

One of his paintings of enchanted fantasy, titled “Daybreak” (1922), is considered one of his most famous and was estimated to have been hanging, in the 1920’s, in one out of every four homes in America. He considered himself a “strictly popular artist” and was hailed as a precursor to pop art, influencing Andy Warhol who was a collector of his art.

What made him particularly unique was that he ”effortlessly combined the creativity and virtuosity of a fine artist with the keen business sense of a commercial, or ‘popular’, artist to create images that had mass appeal,” a pamphlet from the exhibit explains.

“Whatever quality I may possess,” Parrish once said, “I truly think, is the result of being alone and working it out without another’s help. It makes for individuality and even imagination, and what you do is your own.”

His work appeals to viewers of all ages and ultimately speaks to the child in each of us. The magic and enchantment, the warm coziness, the soft serenity and, of course, the “Parrish Blue”, are the “stuff [that] dreams are made of” (quote from Mr. Watson).

Maxfield Parrish prints

The book, Maxfield Parrish: A Treasury of Art and Children’s Literature, compiled by Alma Gilbert features the poem “Rock Me to Sleep” by Elizabeth Akers Allen (1832-1911) that perfectly captures our childhood yearnings:

Backward, turn backward, O Time in your flight!
Make me a child again, just for to-night!…
Backward, flow backward, O tide of the years!
I am so weary of toils and of tears,
Toil without recompense, tears all in vain!
Take them, and give me my childhood again…

Read more about the James Nachtwey exhibit here and the Maxfield Parrish exhibit here.

Plumping Up for Winter in Maine at Duck Fat

Duckfat Restaurant Portland MaineIf you are a lover of quality food and are curious about what the latest trends in the culinary world are, a visit to the small city of Portland, Maine provides an enticing glimpse.

Portland has a uniquely strong farm-to-table movement and is considered the epicenter for the concept on the East Coast.  It has been nationally recognized as a “hub of innovative cuisine,” and referred to as a “gastro-tourism paradise.”

For years, talented chefs such as Sam Hayward of Fore Street Grill (opened 1996 and designated as a Top 50 Restaurant in the U.S. by Gourmet Magazine in 2001 and 2006), have been making their way north from Boston and New York City to Portland where they find a wealth of resources from farmers, fishermen, and artisans that provide for year round seasonal cooking and a more welcoming (i.e. less cut-throat) and supportive environment.

Duckfat, which opened in 2005, a restaurant that “comes to mind in the autumn and winter evening” (Portland Press Herald, 2014) and is fun just because of its name, is a local favorite that is still going strong, as can be seen by a frequent line of people waiting to get in.

Duck fat French Fries Indeed, it is the popular Belgian cut frites that many are waiting for. Cooked in duck fat and served with a choice of eight different dipping sauces (garlic or horseradish mayo, truffle ketchup, etc.), the frites were the inspiration for the restaurant, owned and operated by husband and wife team Rob Evans and Nancy Pugh. They have been instrumental in Portland’s culinary transformation, elevating an ordinary sandwich shop to an otherworldly culinary experience.

The restaurant has been a three time “Chopped Champion Restaurant” on the Food Network and Rob Evans was named Best Northeast Chef in 2009 by James Beard.

Duckfat, which is also known for its in-house sodas and milkshakes – the original Tahitian vanilla bean and crème anglaise milkshake are a rich, heavenly delight – beautifully combines the past and its traditions with the present and its new techniques, resulting in a culinary experience that feeds the body, heart and soul.

Two other great body, heart and soul restaurants:

Eventide Oyster Company: a seafood-centric restaurant that offers an amazing variety of oysters (over two dozen) from “Maine and Far Away.” The beautiful display of oysters is a visual feast that one sees upon entering the restaurant and is reminiscent of the great American Oyster bars of times past.  They say on their website: “Eventide marks the transition between day and night, a time that calls for refreshment and rejuvenation.”

Eventide Oyster Company Portland

Central Provisions: With a hugely popular following for their inventive food by Chef and proprietor Chris Gould, Central Provisions offers a cornucopia of small plate feasts of unusual and creative combinations chosen from the Menu headings: “Raw, Cold, Hot, Hearty, and Sweet” (Bluefin Tuna Crudo, Roasted Cauliflower, Duckham and Biscuits, Suckling Pig with Apple and Brown Butter, Fried Brown Point Oysters, Pork and Walnut ravioli).

The description below is just one example of the “unusual” that makes this restaurant an inspiring culinary experience (it was also listed on the 2014 James Beard ten best restaurants in America).

Consider this little gem on the menu: bread and butter[s]erved on a stone slab are slices of toasted baguette accompanied by a fluffy mound of local butter with the texture of whipped cream. Alongside this is something that looks like a giant egg yolk. In fact, it was until tempered into a shimmering mousse-like sabayon. This is achieved by heating the egg yolk with reduced white beer and gelatin over a double boiler until thickened. It’s then put through an aerosol can typically used to dispense whipped cream. The mixture is forced through it onto the dish in the shape of a giant egg yolk. You then smear the butter and sabayon together on the bread and the mingling of both – smooth as silk – is rapturously good. (taken from Portland Herald Press, 2014).

Ghosts, Goblins and Great Decorations in The Big Apple

“They call it the ‘Big Apple’ because that’s how big our apartments are!” – Billboard on the Hudson River Parkway, NYC (2012)

Anyone familiar with New York City knows that tight, close quarters and a small amount of personal space is a sacrifice that must be made for living in what has been deemed, somewhat ironically, “The Big Apple.” Indeed, on a 13.4-mile island populated by 1.6 million people, space is a luxury that many – though not all – can’t afford, which is why New Yorkers are often compelled to get a bit creative.

Such creativity is witnessed firsthand while strolling through the neighborhoods of Manhattan in the weeks leading up to Halloween. With a truly limited and “tricky” amount of space to work with, the elaborate displays, spooky props and ghastly décor that line the stoops, gates, stairs, windows and doors of many apartment buildings is rather impressive – and a pleasant “treat” that lifts your spirits to the festive fun of the season.

Below is just a sampling, all taken within a 10-block radius on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Happy trick-or-treating!

See also our list of the top 10 scariest movies of all time as well as our recipes for all things apples. And…are you a curmudgeon

Halloween in NYC

Halloween ideas NYC

Where to trick-or-treat on Halloween in NYC

Halloween costumes NYC

Best Halloween displays NYC

spooky outdoor halloween decor

Scariest Halloween Decorations

Unique Halloween Props

Scary Halloween Scenes

Halloween decor ideas

Halloween spider decorations

Scary Halloween costumes

One More Cup of Coffee for the Road…

In morning there is darkness, light and then a good hot cup of coffee. Rarely are we able to begin our days without it. Indeed, a sip of fresh, hot coffee in the morning is like magic, turning moans and groans into spoken words.

Facts about coffee

“Coffee is a daily ritual in the lives of millions of humans around the globe,” Tori Avey writes in Caffeinated: A History of Coffee. It is by far the world’s most popular beverage (more than 2.2 billion cups of coffee are consumed each day). Whether it is the pleasure of holding a warm cup or taking the first sip, it is as if God knew man would need something strong to entice him out of bed in the morning and help prepare him for the challenges of the day ahead.

That “something strong” is the Coffea Tree, an evergreen shrub that produces a fruit known as “cherries” in which two coffee beans are cocooned. It first grew on the mountain slopes of southwestern Ethiopia, which is considered the birthplace of coffee.

Most of us have a story or a memory of when, where, and why we drank our first cup of coffee – from college all-nighters to working night shifts – as a brother of mine did back in 1993 when he was flying 10 hour night missions over the Adriatic Sea during the Bosnian War.

Having never before had a cup of coffee, it didn’t take him long to acquire a taste and strong desire for the cappuccinos that the Italians offered him in the hangar on the U.S. Military Base in Sigonella, Sicily. The cappuccinos that he drank during the preflight preparations set the stage for a long night ahead on board the P3 where the crew of 12 kept a large pot of coffee brewing throughout the night patrol.

When he returned to the states, he brought his fondness for those cappuccinos with him, seeking out cappuccinos wherever he was and whenever his body, night or day, needed that “jolt.”

History of coffee

Around the mid- to late-nineties, when Starbucks began appearing on the corner blocks of every town across America, those cappuccino-seeking-lovers like my brother no longer had to search far.

“Starbucks introduced a generation to specialty coffee and espresso drinks,” Bangor Daily News writes. Indeed, Starbucks, which first opened in Seattle in 1971, set the stage for what has evolved over the decades into the “Third Wave” of coffee.

Coined in 2002 as a “chiefly American phenomenon”, Third Wave coffee is a movement that shares a similar evolution to that of wine and chocolate, where a mass-produced foodstuff is elevated to new culinary heights as “an experience” to be understood and appreciated. As the Bangor Daily News states, coffee, which was “once a means to a caffeinated end, was now an ‘experience’, or even a status symbol.”

The movement has come to encompass every aspect of coffee, from the source of the bean’s origin to its cultivation, harvesting, processing and roasting, and has led to the development of a mutually beneficial relationship between producers, traders and roasters of coffee. “Our partners are much more than farmers,” writes Eric Hoest, head of Operations for Stumptown Coffee, “they are production experts, constantly innovating practices in planting, harvesting, and processing the best coffees around…producers are the heart of what makes good coffee.”

“Coffee as an experience” can be seen today in specialty shops across the country where one can discover and learn about the distinctive features of the Third Wave movement – defined by direct trade, superior quality beans, single-origin (as opposed to mass-produced blends), lighter roasts and latte art.

Starbucks history
3rd Avenue Starbucks, New York City

Howard Schultz, the owner of Starbucks, first recognized the value of coffee as an experience when he travelled to Milan, Italy back in the early 80’s and observed the many cafes where people would spend their afternoons sipping cappuccinos and socializing. Coffee houses throughout the history of time were a meeting place for lively discussions and political debates, religious meetings, storytelling and singing – they were part of the “societal fabric” – from the mid-15th century, when coffee houses started springing up in European countries, through the 1650’s when “all-nighters” were born with the formation of the “Oxford Coffee Club” (information from

It was with this in mind that Mr. Shultz, upon purchasing Starbucks in 1987, initiated an American “rebirth” of coffee from the days before tin cans.

Today, alongside the blended tin canned coffees such as Maxwell House (1886; “Good to the Last Drop”) and Folgers (1866; “The best part of waking up, is Folgers in your cup”), one will find a seemingly infinite variety of specialty roasters on store shelves.

“The shelves at cafes and food shops are overrun with beautifully designed bags of single-origin beans from small-batch roasters,” writes The morning ritual for many family kitchens has gone from brewing one big pot of coffee for everyone to setting out the various bags of craft roasted coffee that each has claimed as their favorite ‘morning joe’ for the present moment.

From Tandem Coffee Roasters in Portland, Maine to Counter Culture in Durham, North Carolina; Intelligentsia in Chicago; Lexington Coffee Roasters in Virginia; PT’s Coffee Roasting in Topeka, Kansas; Peace Coffee in Minneapolis; Blue Bottle in California and Stumptown in Portland, Oregon, we are living in the “best era ever for quality coffee” ( These represent just some of the best from the vibrant coffee scene of artisan roasters who are “finessing the roast of beans to ultimate degrees” (

how to roast coffee

Intelligentsia Coffee’s website explains it well, writing:

“Coffee roasting is an intensely dynamic combination of art and science wherein a batch of raw, green coffee beans is transformed into a caramelized state which can be ground, brewed, and enjoyed. The goal of the roaster is to unlock the many potential flavors that lie dormant within the green beans to achieve a delicate, nuanced, and balanced cup that best showcases the characteristics that make each coffee unique.”

The “story of coffee” in America will continue to be told by the next generation of coffee roasters, according to Oliver Strand who, in his article for the Wall Street Journal, “Coffee’s Next Generation of Roasters,” highlights Supersonic Coffee in Berkeley, California as one of the first to “reshape America’s coffee obsession.” He writes:

“The first roasting company in the U.S. to buy from Nordic Approach, a renowned Norway-based importer that sources only high-quality ‘green’ coffees, Supersonic will light-roast in the so-called Scandinavian style used by groundbreaking roasters in Northern Europe. ‘We wanted to look five years ahead,’ says John Laird, one of Supersonic’s founders, ‘and do something that would feel fresh down the line.’”  

While this new wave is busy forming, craft coffee roasters all across America continue to pop up, each with their own unique story about how their passions for coffee led them to join the roasting craze.

Third wave coffeeEven my brother, a pilot after all of these many years – who came to depend on the little roadside cappuccino stands for his caffeine boost on his way to the Fiumicino airport in Rome, and who has probably had more cups of coffee in more Starbucks across the country than anyone I know – joined the coffee craze years ago when he began to roast his own beans at home.

His coffee story continues today after a three-day course at Dietrich’s, a company in Idaho that manufacturers one of the world’s best coffee roasters and offers coffee roasting classes.

I leaned from my visit with him that he tends to like a traditional dark roast, which is referred to as a Full City Roast or Viennese Roast and that he likes to roast with beans from Columbia. I also learned about the importance of acidic balance – too little acid makes for a flat tasting coffee. And I learned that about 75 percent of the beans sold by producers are “Arabica” as opposed to “robusta,” for many reasons that I have yet to learn.

Ultimately, however, I learned that there is just so much to learn about coffee. In fact, after all this learning, I think I need one more cup of coffee for the road.

speciality coffee roasters


Make Bourbon Great Again!

One can never quite know exactly what it is that resurrects something from the past, but bourbon – the famed American whiskey – has risen from the ashes and been “made great again.”

Surely the popular TV series Mad Men has contributed to its resurgence – the “Mad Men Effect” – where men were men who drank manly drinks called the “Old-Fashioned”, but whatever the reasons involved, the rise of the “golden age of bourbon” is an undeniable reality.

Bourbon drinks

The New York Times writes and quotes drinks author Robert Hess: “Like an artifact from a lost, great civilization…‘[t]he old-fashioned has been a touchstone of the cocktail movement [for] the last 10 years.’”

Fortune Magazine reports that, in 2000, there were just 24 bourbon craft distilleries across America; today there are more than 430. “This is probably the best time to be in bourbon since Prohibition”, says Tim DeLong; and Eric Gregory: “Bourbon is not just a drink anymore but a part of [a] culture.”

And The Associated Press writes: “This is a renaissance we haven’t seen in generations, and possibly in the entire history of our signature spirit.”

Perhaps Donald Trump – whose slogan rings “Make America Great Again!” – should travel to Louisville, the heart of Kentucky’s bourbon county, to adopt this most authentic American drink with a rich American history as the official drink of his campaign.

Indeed, as Fortune writes, “people are flocking to Kentucky to experience bourbon in its native habitat,” where it has emerged as a “global force” and become one of the “state’s most prized economic engines.”

It is with this in mind that we share below a recipe for bourbon slush, a recipe with a bourbon-vinaigrette dressing, some interesting bourbon facts and even a bourbon drinking song.

Here’s to making bourbon great again!

Bourbon Slush

Note: We have adapted the below recipe from the recipes from Garden & Gun and Smitten Kitchen.

2 cups tea
1-2 cups bourbon (depending on how strong you would like it)
1/2 – 1 cup of sugar (we used 1/2 cup, however we would suggest more if you tend to like your drinks on the sweeter side)
1 cup good quality orange juice
1 cup Nantucket Nectar Lemonade (or another good quality lemonade)

Bourbon slush recipe

Bring two cups of water to a boil, add two tea bags and let steep for five minutes. Let tea cool slightly and then in glass bowl combine tea, sugar, bourbon, orange juice and lemonade and stir thoroughly. Cover with plastic wrap and put in freezer. Freeze for 4-5 hours or until it becomes a thick slush. Serve in glass cocktail tumblers with a sprig of fresh mint.

Note: Enjoy your bourbon slush while listening to an old blues song, “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer”, written by Rudy Toombs and recorded by Amos Milburn in 1953; the song was made especially popular by John Lee Hooker in 1966 and George Thorogood in 1977.

Spinach Salad with sliced pecans, lamb bacon, Clemson blue cheese and bourbon vinaigrette (taken from Chef Edward Lee’s cookbook, Smoke & Pickles)

Ingredients for salad:
8 ounces Lamb Bacon, cut into small cubes (note: we used regular bacon)
8 ounces spinach
½ cup pecans
1 green apple, cored and cut into matchsticks
1 breakfast radish, sliced into thin rounds
4 ounces Clemson blue cheese or other mild artisan blue cheese, crumbled

Ingredients for Bourbon Vinaigrette:
¼ cup bourbon
¾ cup olive oil
2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp. maple syrup
¼ tsp. sea salt
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

To make the vinaigrette: start by pouring the bourbon into a small saucepan and bringing it to a boil over medium heat. Be careful, because the alcohol in the bourbon could ignite. If that happens, to tamp out the flame, simply put a tight-fitting lid over the pot – the lack of oxygen will suffocate the flame; remove the lid after a few seconds. Boil to reduce the liquid to about 2 tablespoons. Transfer the bourbon to a ramekin and refrigerate until well chilled.

Combine the olive oil, vinegar, maple syrup, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Whisk in the reduced bourbon. Keep refrigerated; bring to room temperature when ready to use.

To make the salad: put the lamb bacon in a small skillet and cook, stirring, over medium-low heat just until it becomes crispy on the outside, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel to drain what little fat will render from the bacon.

Combine the remaining salad ingredients in a large bowl and add the lamb bacon. Toss gently with the bourbon vinaigrette and serve immediately.

Do you know the “Six Standard Rules” for a spirit to be considered bourbon? It must be…

  1.  Made in the Unites States
  2.  Aged in charred white oak barrels
  3.  51% corn
  4.  Distilled at less than 160 proof (80% alcohol by volume)
  5.  Put into a barrel at below 125 proof
  6.  No artificial coloring or flavor

Why does Kentucky make good bourbon?  

It has excellent quality limestone-filtered water; the state’s extreme weather patterns is also thought to contribute to prime bourbon-making conditions

Bourbon got its name from…

Two men known as the Tarascon Brothers who arrived in Louisville from Cognac (south of France) and began shipping local whiskey down the Ohio River to New Orleans. In the 19th century, New Orleans entertainment district was “Bourbon Street”, where all of the bars were. People started asking for “that whiskey they sell on Bourbon Street”, which eventually became “that bourbon whiskey.”

(Note: the above facts were taken from Smithsonian article listed below)

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