Friday, June 25, 2010
"Cocktail Creations": A Hands-On Amateur Bartending Class
Bartender of America Bartending School
9651 Baltimore Avenue
College Park, MD 20740
The Bartender of America Bartending School is on Baltimore Avenue. A fact that was drilled into my brain as I was driving there with Dilettante Amy and we had the following Rain Man/Who's on First discussion:
Amy: What is the address of the place?
Me: Baltimore Avenue
Amy: Right, but what is the street address?
Me: Baltimore Avenue
Amy: (to her credit, very patiently) The street address.
Me: (emphatically) Baltimore Avenue!
Amy: (resignedly) Is there a building number on Baltimore Avenue?
Me: (sheepishly) Oh...9651
Dilettante Amanda was smart and just met us there. She came from a baby shower that had been held at a home with no air conditioning. On a day that the temperature reached almost 115 degrees. Holy boob sweat, Batman.
The Dilettantes made up the majority of this one hour class that focused on how to properly mix and serve different types of martinis. Our classroom was set up to look like a commercial bar with glassware, cocktail shakers, garnishes and even a soda gun at each station. And although the alcohol bottles lined up on the shelves behind us were real, they were all filled with colored water.
For the most part, we used the correct bottles of alcohol for whatever cocktail we were mixing (for a dash of realism), though, occasionally, we amused ourselves by putting together the grossest combination of booze we could think of (Dilettante Amanda's jagermeister and creme de menthe creation with a cocktail onion and cherry garnish comes to mind).
We went through exercises of counting out the proper pour and then measuring our results to see how accurate we were (a two-count is about half an ounce), practiced using a shaker, a strainer and making cocktails straight up or on the rocks, and then adding the proper garnish and setting the finished cocktail on the bar in front of us. As with anything, the pros make this look so much easier than it is. We had early visions of coming away being able to do Tom Cruise's "Cocktail" moves and realized quickly that we'd be lucky to count the pour without moving our lips.
We then spent the rest of the class focused on the valuable bartending skill of interpreting slur.
At the end of the hour, our almost impossibly good looking and very fun instructor, Mia, gave us a copy of the cocktail recipes we had practiced and tried to sell us a bunch of barware.
We followed up with lunch at the Hard Times Cafe in College Park. Unadventurously, drinking only beer.
By the way, during the entire class, we were being photographed and videotaped for the Bartender of America web site. Let us know if you see us there.
Wednesday, June 02, 2010
Flamenco Dancing (with castanets!)
Born 2 Dance Studio
Monday, June 14, 2010
I'll be honest with you -- the studio name was almost a deal breaker for me, being no fan of text message-ese. (Truly, seeing someone write "R U" in lieu of "are you" causes me physical pain.)
Getting past that, I was very excited to try flamenco and get back to my Spanish roots. (You know, since my husband's grandfather came straight from the Old Country I am now Spanish-by-association and am launching a campaign to get the tilde back in our last name. Let's all say it together: Can-YAY-doh.)
Walking into the Andalusia ballroom (that the man who checked me in pronounced as "An-da-loo-SEE-ah" -- god, I love that accent) in the Born 2 Dance Studio, we saw about 10 other women of all ages ready to flamenco. We found out that most had just begun taking lessons, yet most already had their own castanets and special dance shoes. With our castanets borrowed from the teacher, we began a series of warm up exercises that included a lot of wrist movement and hand positioning. Then, we spent a lot of time on castanets...putting them on and clacking out different beat patterns. Castanets rock.
We learned that flamenco music styles are called palos and songs are classified into palos based on a rhythmic pattern. (Our instructor, in her ever-cheerful way, explained that the palos we'd be dancing to had a 12-beat and that we'd be counting by fives on the 12-beat. We quickly realized that 12 is not evenly divisible by five and therefore, were immediately overwhelmed by counting, castanet-ing and stomping all at once.)
She further complicated this by introducing a compas (the rhythmic cycle of a palo) and at first having us stomp on the beat, and then on the contra beat. (It was enough to make our heads feel like they were gonna 'splode, Loo-see.)
Other than a little stomping, we didn't do any actual dancing...it was more about the upper body posture and arm position and castanets. Have I mentioned that castanets rock?
After class, we walked over to Amphora for some food and cervezas. Muy bien!