Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Squid Mixes: Bensonhurst

A Bensonhurst combines rye, dry vermouth, maraschino liqueur and Cynar.  It is a Manhattan variant created by bartender Chad Solomon of Cuffs and Buttons.  I got the recipe from a new book to my personal library: The Joy of Mixology: The Consummate Guide to the Bartender's Craft by Gary Regan.  Bensonhurst is a neighborhood in Brooklyn.

My copy of The Joy of Mixology is the second edition of a book first published in 2003, one that has quickly become a must-have for cocktail enthusiasts.  Regan's target audience is the professional bartender but his book is filled with basic tips anyone can use.  It's also highly readable.  I don't intend to read it cover to cover but one could.  There are chapters on history, theory, technique and meaningful blurbs on the individual recipes, too.  As it is aimed for the pro, the emphasis is on pleasing the customer.  A lot of books (by food writers who are not professional bartenders) are rather pedantic - precision is paramount.  Regan is more flexible and forgiving.  I appreciate that.  Regan has fun charts detailing how drinks are related to each other.  I got the Bensonhurst from a list of cocktails that descend from the Manhattan, our house favorite.

As for the drink itself, my wife found it slightly too bitter.  I picked up more of the maraschino flavor.  I had to add a tiny bit of cherry brandy - 1/2 tsp - as we didn't have quite enough Luxardo.  The Bensonhurst is pleasant enough, though certainly no threat to my standard Manhattan recipe.

Friday, January 27, 2023

Star Trek: The Homecoming

Episode: "The Homecoming"
Series: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Season 2, Episode 1
Original Air Date: September 26, 1993

via Memory Alpha

Kira learns that Li Nalas, a hero of the Bajoran Resistance, is alive and being held prisoner in a Cardassian labor camp.  She and Miles rescue him.  She and Commander Sisko both see Li as a potential symbolic leader for a politically fragmented Bajor.  Unfortunately, Li himself isn't so keen on the job.

At the end of DS9's first season, co-creator Michael Piller instructed the writers to concentrate on stories that would break away from NextGen.  "The Homecoming" is the first of a three-part story, one that focuses on the politics of Bajor.  It ends with a good cliffhanger as Jaro, a Bajoran minister played by the un-credited Frank Nagella, tells Sisko that Li will be replacing Kira as the station's liaison officer.

Acting Notes

via Wikipedia

Marc Alaimo played the role of Gul Dukat, one of DS9's most important recurring, and nuanced, recurring characters.  "The Homecoming" is Alaimo's third of 33 appearances as Dukat, though he also had four TNG appearances as four different characters.  Alaimo, was, in fact, the first Cardassian in the franchise - Gul Macet - and the species's makeup design was inspired by the actor's distinctive neck muscles.

Alaimo was born May 5, 1942 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  He had an active stage career in both Milwaukee and New York before moving to Los Angeles in 1973.  His television credits are extensive, including guest roles on Kojak, Gunsmoke, The Greatest American Hero, Hill Street Blues and The A-Team.  Films include Naked Gun 33+1/3: The Final Insult, Tango & Cash and The Dead Pool.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Squid Eats: Bob's Diner

Manchester, Vermont has been a resort town since the Civil War, drawing from New York, Boston and everywhere in between year-round.  Most of the people one sees wandering the strip malls are not local residents of the town of under 5,000.  We have met up with Wild Turkey, Commish and family (read here) in Manchester a few times over the years during their summer travels, specifically at Bob's Diner for lunch.  It also made for a convenient stop on one of our recent trips to Massachusetts.

Bob's feels timeless but not old.  The place looks like nearly any 1950s decor diner with the menu you'd expect but doesn't feel run down in the slightest.  One senses it's a popular spot for both locals and the many tourists.  There wasn't a whole lot of snow in Vermont in early January nor was it even especially cold, but that didn't seem to deter the crowds.  I suppose you have to make your reservations at the resorts well in advance so you might as well go, skiing or no skiing.  A lot of the clientele looked about college age - probably got bored hanging out at home with their parents over break.

I got the Diner's Club with turkey.  It was good, though I was disappointed by the lack of a pickle, promised in the menu.  Service was friendly, if a little slow.

Friday, January 20, 2023

Star Trek: Descent, Part II

Episode: "Descent, Part II"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 7, Episode 1
Original Air Date: September 20, 1993

Season 6's season finale continues.  Data, drunk with his new emotions, has joined forces with Lore, his evil brother.  Lore has enlisted a group of disgruntled Borg drones to help him realize his own megalomaniacal vision.  As we join the story, Picard, Troi and La Forge are Lore's prisoners.

The writers themselves admitted that they took on too much story in "Part I" to do it all justice in "Part II."  By my reckoning, it's too much Lore, not enough Hugh, though the latter does play a pivotal role.  I am glad Lore is finally killed off in this episode.  I really can't stand him - too much "Look at me!  I'm evil!" acting from Brent Spiner.

Acting Notes

Alex Datcher played the role of Ensign Taitt in a forgettable (not her fault) secondary narrative on the Enterprise bridge.  Datcher was born June 6, 1962 in Chicago.  

Datcher was a regular on Goode Behavior and had a recurring role on 18 Wheels of Justice.  She also made guest appearances on Beauty and the Beast, Sliders and The Pretender among others.  Films include Rage and Honor, Passenger 57 and Jury Duty.

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Squid Mixes: Emergency Protocol 417

An Emergency Protocol 417 (EP 417) is essentially a 1:1, gin to dry vermouth martini.  I got my recipe from The Geeky Chef Drinks by Cassandra Reeder.  Reeder was inspired by a Doctor Who episode in which Captain Jack Harkness commands his ship's computer to initiate "Emergency Protocol 417" which turns out to be a vermouth-heavy martini.

Interestingly, we'd just been discussing 50/50 martinis, an idea my wife got from David Lebovitz's podcast so it was funny to find a recipe for one.  It's a good choice for anyone who's martini-curious but gin-shy.  However, I question whether it can still be called a martini with such proportions.  Thus, I like the EP 417 name.  

I enjoyed the drink, especially when it got down to the dregs and the olive juice became more prominent.  As such, dirty martini experiments may be in our near future.

One similarity with a standard martini: the EP 417 goes nicely with oysters.

Friday, January 13, 2023

Star Trek: Descent

Episode: "Descent"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 6, Episode 26
Original Air Date: June 21, 1993

via Memory Alpha

The Borg attack the Federation, or so it appears.  These drones seem different.  They're acting individually.  Even more complicating, Data is experiencing emotions for the first time, beginning with rage.

At this point, the writers felt the only way to advance the Borg story was to follow the path set forth with Hugh in "I, Borg."  What happens when the capacity for individual initiative is injected into the collective?  Apparently, splinter groups can form.  I'm not a big fan of Lore's return but I suppose it was inevitable.  Admittedly, it provides for a suitable season-ending cliffhanger.

Thoughts on Season Six

General Impressions

The series has passed its zenith and sunset nears.  Character profiles are rounding out.  In Season Six, the best episodes are mostly Picard-centric ones.  Patrick Stewart gets a lot of his juiciest material in this stretch.

Favorite Episode: "Chain of Command, Part II"

A case in point: the captain is tortured by his Cardassian captor, Gul Madred (David Warner).  Both Stewart and screenwriter Frank Abatemarco did extensive research with Amnesty International to get it right.  The verbal sparring between Picard and Madred is unforgettable.

Least Favorite Episode: "Schisms"

The crew can't sleep.  And there's a weird thing in the cargo bay.  The highlight is "Ode to Spot," Data's comically dreadful poem about his cat.  That says it all, really.

Favorite Recurring Character: Professor James Moriarty

via Memory Alpha

Season Six was the last one for Guinan so it might seem fitting to give her a proper send off here.  But Moriarty deserves his due.  Sherlock Holmes's arch-nemesis proves himself a foil worthy of Picard as well.  I'll take Moriarty over Q any time.  Not only is he my favorite TNG villain.  He is my favorite screen interpretation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's original character.  Actor Daniel Davis deserves full credit.

Favorite Blast from the Past: Scotty

It's no contest.  During his visit to the NextGen Enterprise in "Relics," our old pal, Montgomery Scott, enters a holodeck rendition of the original series bridge.  The scene is one of the franchise's greatest homages to the original series.  All of the sights and sounds are spot on.  I can't help tearing up with the first late '60s ping.

Favorite Guest Actor, One-Shot: Carolyn Seymour

via Star Trek: Pendragon Database

Carolyn Seymour has multiple Trek appearances to her name but "Face of the Enemy" is the only one as the Romulan Commander Toreth.  Initially, the part was intended as a reprise for the unnamed commander in the original series episode "The Enterprise Incident," played by Joanne Linville.  The scheduling didn't work out with Linville so Seymour got the job.  All to the good, I think.  The original plan would have been fun but Seymour is stellar.

David Warner certainly deserves consideration in this category but as "Chain of Command" is a two-part episode, Gul Madred is, by my reckoning, a recurring character.  Seymour wins.


The end is near.  But with one spin-off series already launched and a second in the works, The Next Generation's legacy is secure.  What's left to do other than tying up loose ends and saying a fond farewell - at least for now?  I guess we'll know soon.

Meanwhile, what the heck's going on with Data?

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Squid Mixes: Warday's Cocktail

Warday's Cocktail combines gin, apple brandy, sweet vermouth and yellow Chartreuse.  I got my recipe from The New York Bartender's Guide.  The drink dates back to at least 1930 when it was featured in Harry Craddock's The Savoy Cocktail Book.  

"It's okay," my wife said, clearly underwhelmed.  She felt it could use a citrus note.

Friday, January 6, 2023

Star Trek: In the Hands of the Prophets

Episode: "In the Hands of the Prophets"
Series: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Season 1, Episode 20
Original Air Date: June 20, 1993

via Memory Beta

Vedek Winn, a prominet Bajoran religious leader, arrives on the station to stir up trouble.  Her target is Keiko O'Brien's school for the teacher's refusal to teach religious doctrine.  The school is even bombed during Winn's visit, though fortunately no one is hurt.  Winn also expresses her distress over Commander Sisko's reluctance to fully embrace the role of Emissary.  On top of it all, there's an assassination attempt on Vedek Bareil, a more progressive religious leader.  Is Vedek Winn behind all of these terrorist attacks?

The benefit of hanging around Bajor for a while is we get to see the society's nuances.  There is more to the culture than resistance to the Cardassians.  There is internal political power struggle on Bajor itself and it ain't all pretty.  This time, the historical model for the narrative is 15th- and 16th-century Catholicism, though there is no shortage of examples of zealotry gone too far at any point in human history.

There's no cliff-hanger at the end, which had become the template for Star Trek season finales.  However, there are plenty of unanswered questions to build on in future seasons.

Thoughts on Season One

General Impressions

Deep Space Nine is off to a strong start - considerably stronger, in fact, than NextGen's first season.  The characters are established and overall, the writing is solid.  The last two episodes, in particular, stake out the moral landscape for the series moving forward.  While one could argue that all of the creative minds involved benefited from the TNG experience thus a better beginning was inevitable, things don't always work out that way, as we shall see when we get to Voyager.

Favorite Episode: "Duet"

DS9 goes from good to great with "Duet."  Kira confronts a Cardassian who was at a Bajoran labor camp.  She must determine whether he is a blameless file clerk or the camp's war criminal commander.  Prejudices are confronted.  Most importantly, satisfying resolution is lacking, new narrative ground for the Star Trek brand.  We don't get to run away this time.  We're going to have to sit with Bajor's mess for a while.

Least Favorite Episode: "The Storyteller"

Even the weaker DS9 episodes aren't so bad compared to the worst of TNG or TOS.  And often, there is a redeeming element.  "The Storyteller" is eye-roll-level hokey yet it launches the Miles-Julian bromance.

Favorite Recurring Character: Keiko O'Brien

via Memory Alpha

The quality of the bench players is a major asset for DS9.  Already in the first season, Keiko gets far more development than she ever got on NextGen.  In time, other recurring characters will become a lot more interesting - Gul Ducat, Rom, Nog, Vedek Winn and, of course, Garak.  But in the early going, Keiko gets the nod in this category.

Favorite Blast from the Past: Miles O'Brien

via Memory Alpha

If any character was intended to bridge the new series with the old, it was Miles O'Brien.  The character's TNG resume is nothing to sneeze at: 52 appearances including at least one in each season.  He gets a particularly good story in Season 4's "The Wounded."  But in DS9, Miles attains principal character status.

Favorite Guest Actor, One-Shot: Andrew Robinson

Get used to seeing Garak in these season wrap-ups.  The enigmatic Cardassian clothier is DS9's gem, every story improving the instant he appears.  Robinson's character only got one episode in the first season: "Past Prologue."  True to form, he made it count.


The best is yet to come.

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Squid Mixes: Le Gascon

Le Gascon combines Armagnac, Grand Marnier (or Cointreau), lemon juice and orange juice with an Armagnac-soaked prune for garnish.  I got my recipe from Drinking French by David Lebovitz.

The result was nice - a less citrusy sidecar.  The citrus flavors still dominate, though.  It's not the best drink for appreciating the Armagnac itself.  The prune, however, is good for that.  

Evidently both prunes and Armagnac are popular in Gascony, thus the name of the drink.  As such, my wife said "All for one an one for all" as part of our toast.  I will confess, I didn't know The Three Musketeers were from Gascony.