Your Free Fitness Consultation

•November 5, 2007 • Leave a Comment

Given my developing financial situation, I’ve spent plenty of time over the past several weeks contemplating the finer points of pretty much everything one can do for free around here. For example, since wrapping up my final exams, I’ve begun writing for an external audience through a trendy internet-based phenomenon known as blogging. Perhaps some of you have heard of it. Another relatively weighty (pun absolutely intended) portion of my current lifestyle, as those who know me personally might’ve guessed, has been the eponymous Jacrobat Gym Workout. Today, I’ve decided to blend these two worthy pastimes (I mean, why not?) into a frothy and delicious ramble about my personal strategies for building abominable abdominals!

Most powerlifters (them folks that grunt or scream while they bench and then totter off too exhausted to rack their weights, leaving you to peel maybe two hundred pounds from the bar before you can even lift the damn thing) will encourage you to work in those crunches after heavy lifting exercises like bench presses and deadlifts. Their rationale is simple: if you want to toss really heavy weights around, you’ll need your abdominals at full capacity to stabilize your torso and thus protect your spinal cord. Such logic is irrefutable.

That said, there are a select few of us out there who enjoy lifting weights but don’t really want to end up looking like a top-heavy Taxidermy For Dummies project. Y’see, when I chose to follow these powerlifters’ advice, my one rep maximums (not to mention pecs, lats, delts, and traps) ballooned rapidly – but by the time I hit the mats, both glycogen and motivation were dropping into the danger zone. So I’d bust out a couple weak sets o’ crunches and head for the hills.

After a few weeks of such treatment, my core began to atrophy. So although I looked bigger, I really wasn’t making much progress. Turns out that ripped abdominals at 80% capacity stabilize just as effectively as paltry ones at 100%. And the former provides additional benefits when climbing mountains, hanging out at the beach, or shredding cheese.

So since a few weeks ago I’ve wedged an intense abdominal routine between my warmup (usually ten minutes with the rowing machine on maximum resistance, aiming for about 2.4 kilometers in that time) and my heavy lifting. The results have been phenomenal. My endurance during bench-presses and front squats has decreased significantly, but my overall athleticism has jumped two notches (and my vertical leap about three inches), even given the extremely short time span involved.

The message to take home? The muscleheads hanging out at the gym probably know their stuff, but you’ve got to carefully consider the relationship between their goals and lifestyles and your own. The same thing goes for those trendy plans celebrities follow to reshape their bodies at terminal velocity. Such workouts are very difficult to sustain for long periods unless you base your whole life around them. Is that eight-pack really worth leaving behind the things one loves? If so… well, have fun with that.

Oh! Almost forgot – these are a few of my favorite core exercises.  Mixing them into a routine including more common motions like the standard crunch and the side bridge will really increase your workout’s effectiveness.

Elbows and Knees

Hang from an overhead bar with your palms facing toward you and pull yourself up halfway, so that your forearms are perpendicular to the floor and form a right angle with your upper arms.  Then bend your knees and raise your legs – without curling your torso – until the knees touch your elbows.  Lower your legs slowly so that your body doesn’t swing.  This move is also great for building upper-body endurance.

Bicycle Kick

Lie on your back with your legs suspended off the ground, slightly bent, and your head and shoulders curled forward, also off the ground.  Support your head with your hands so your elbows are splayed outward to either side, and make sure you’re holding yourself in this position with your abdominals rather than your neck.  Slowly crunch forward and to the right with your upper body while drawing your right knee towards your head until your left wrist and right knee touch.  Meanwhile, kick the left leg out straight.  Then slowly alternate, kicking out the right leg while touching your left knee and right wrist.

Wood Chop

Stand with legs apart and hold a medicine ball straight out in front of you.  Without turning your hips or bending your arms (thus ensuring that all the rotation work comes from the core) slowly rotate up and to the right.  Then bring the ball back down through the starting point and towards your lower left, still keeping your feet and hips facing precisely the original direction.  After performing several repetitions, try the same motion going from upper left to lower right.

Fifteen of Those Giant Soft Pretzels

•November 2, 2007 • Leave a Comment

I was just winding down after a long and arduous Friday of lounging around when Zach popped by our flat to change his shirt. “Doug and Rachel just got a keg and brought out the grill,” he told me through a mouthful of Cocoa Pops and McDuff’s beer (two inferior substances that, when brought into contact with one another, form a chemical compound far worse than the sum of their constituent parts). I expressed approval, particularly for the bit about the grill. Zach concurred. “But really,” he remarked, “the only thing I want right now is One of Those Giant Soft Pretzels, y’know?”

Oh yes, I knew. Something about the weather had instilled One of Those Giant Soft Pretzels into the back of my consciousness as well. You know what I’m talking about: a lustrous exterior of salted buttery copper, yielding to soft and subtly sweet doughy goodness with a slight but satisfying crunch as every parade and sporting event of one’s childhood rushes back in a whirlwind of halite-fueled euphoria. Now I needed a pretzel too. But how were they made? Could I whip up a batch right there, or would I need special gadgets and/or ingredients?

There could be but one cure-all remedy for such complete pretzel ignorance. For any sort of ignorance, really. I quickly engaged a web browser and fired up the Font of Wisdom (which goes by Google nowadays, I’m told). It turns out that making giant soft pretzels is a quick, easy, and only moderately messy exercise, even for the absolute beginner. Most importantly, they’re just as I remembered them – only better. Here’s the recipe I ended up with. Go ahead and give it a shot; you probably have all the stuff you’ll need already.

Fifteen of Those Giant Soft Pretzels (adapted from various formulas found online)

6 cups all-purpose flour
4 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp active dry yeast
2 cups cool water
¼ cup warm water

2 quarts water
½ cup baking soda

Butter and table salt

Preheat oven to 425F. Sift together flour, sugar, and yeast; add cool and warm water. Mix and knead the resultant dough for maybe ten minutes. Divide dough into about fifteen balls, and roll each one into a long rope. This part was easiest for me to accomplish on the countertop, but I found that getting too much flour on either my hands or my workspace severely retarded the rolling process – so ideally, the countertop shouldn’t be floured, and the ropes should be almost (but not quite) sticky. After rolling each rope, form it into the shape of a pretzel and place it onto a floured surface.

While you’re rolling away, bring those quarts of water to a rolling boil and set up some kitchen towels onto a nearby flat surface. Once you’ve got fifteen or so phenomenal pretzel shapes, add the baking soda to the water and submerge a pretzel in there for fifteen seconds, using a slotted spoon. Then set the pretzel down on a kitchen towel and dunk another one. The boiling process should cause the exterior of your pretzels to harden and become slightly wrinkled. Once you’re done, bake the pretzels on greased cookie sheets in batches for about ten minutes, or until they look absolutely irresistible and/or begin to crack on top. Meanwhile, melt some butter in a small bowl. When each batch comes out of the oven, brush the pretzels immediately with this liquid butter and sprinkle salt on top. Then scarf them all down with your friends – preferably while they’re still piping hot, and accompanied by steaks grilled outside and a keg of New Zealand lager chilled in an inflatable kiddie pool packed with ice cubes.

Okay, maybe not the lager. I know it’s supposed to complement pretzels, but even in New Zealand, keg beer is just gross. I would have much preferred Chartreuse. That, my pretzels, and a lamb steak rubbed with rosemary.

This is why I need to secure a lucrative job when I graduate.

Getting Back Online

•November 2, 2007 • Leave a Comment

Hello, child. Don’t be afraid; it’s only me. I apologize for my neglect of late, but quite frankly, I’ve been far too busy doing things to actually write about any of them. But now the winds of change are descending upon Dunedin once again, heralding semester’s end and a glorious New Zealand summer! As such, I’ve made substantive alterations to the blog – for perhaps a fresh outlook will inspire me to dust off both camera and keyboard, and document this wondrous finale of my trip.

What sort of changes might you expect? Well, shorter and more diverse posts, for starters. The painstaking narratives from previous entries make fantastic reading, but from my perspective as a writer, they’re also incredibly tedious and uninspired. I’d like to divorce myself from this style and attempt to paint a more comprehensive picture of my pastimes, whatever their relation (or lack thereof) to New Zealand – hence the evolving title and subtitle.

I’ve also snapped a tremendous number of quality photos over the last several weeks, far more than either Flickr or my capricious hard drive can handle. I’m uploading them with all possible haste, but will probably exceed my November maximum in a matter of weeks. Sigh. I desperately need a genuine Flickr membership and/or another hard drive.

Bottom line – summer is fast approaching down here in the Southern hemisphere. You want to hear about it, and I want to tell you. So check back often, feel free to leave comments, and otherwise just enjoy my freshly reanimated blog!

Go West, Young Men

•August 31, 2007 • 2 Comments

Alright, folks. What you’re about to read is probably the longest singular post I’ll ever write – appropriate given that it chronicles what may be the most eventful trip of my study abroad experience. Allow me to begin by introducing the cast:

Jack – This superhero rock god needs no introduction.

Eddie – Jack’s gym buddy. Attends Davidson and swims like a fishie. Enjoys quoting Dane Cook.

Gabriel – Tall, dark, introspective, and often seen carrying an acoustic guitar. Some believe he could be the reincarnated form of Johnny Cash. Incidentally, Gabe doesn’t believe in reincarnation.
Shadowfax – Jack’s 1989 Toyota Corona. May slow considerably on long uphill stretches, yet all things considered, still the automotive equivalent of Lance Armstrong.

We planned to tour the Westland region of the South Island; the concept came about when my flatmate Zach had raved about his own trek through that particular area and I began looking into some of the attractions along the way. My penchant for anal-retentive research and planning is extremely well documented; you’ve probably already guessed that I constructed a detailed itinerary crammed with activities, directions, phone numbers, costs, estimated driving times, et cetera capped with a three-page bibliography. Well, you’re wrong. About the bibliography, anyway. The rest is pretty much spot on.

I know. Shut up.

The point is that I spent three days prepping our little group for pretty much any eventuality, and in doing so, I suppose that I declared myself de facto Team Captain. More on that later.

Our exodus began bright and early on Wednesday – we crammed three backpacks and a guitar into the trunk and hauled boogie towards Queenstown. Gabe had been there already and wasn’t too keen on it, but I had only seen the outskirts of the city and Eddie had never traveled in that direction at all. After spending the night at the center of town, though, I think we both agreed wholeheartedly with Gabe. Queenstown was absolutely gorgeous and packed with things to do – but at the end of the day it was just a massive ski resort. Prices were astronomical, public parking was nonexistent, and (perhaps most important for me) there was no aura of connection to the landscape. The awe-inspiring Remarkables and shimmering Lake Wakatipu provided the city with a beautiful backdrop, but their presence seemed marginalized by a malignant commercialism that cared only how these awesome natural phenomena might relate to property values. To me, Beach Street emanated the many of the same vibes as Newbury Street, buried within the heart of Boston. The difference is that Boston has a heritage and an evolving purpose based around commercialism – it’s natural there. Queenstown has cut itself adrift from the natural glory that is its birthright in exchange for gaudy materialism and the questionable loyalty of idle tourists. It’s worth noting that although travel agents tend to tout Queenstown as the country’s top attraction, New Zealand natives rank it thirty-sixth.

Please don’t take my words as an indication that visiting Queenstown wasn’t fun – quite the opposite. During the afternoon we hiked up Bob’s Peak on the outskirts of town; at the top we went on a ridiculous (and rather dangerous – Eddie flipped me when I tried to pass him on the inside) luge ride and befriended a couple of employees before heading back down at twilight in a gondola. Our new friends offered to show us their favorite nighttime establishment, so we ate dinner with them at the Waka Tavern, a quiet and cozy spot serving a small crowd of regulars seeking refuge from the utter chaos that emanates from Queenstown’s main drag each night. We slept at a similarly homey hostel called the Last Resort. Small, personal, and complete with a lovely TV lounge and frisky malamute pup named Cocco, the place was completely different from the rest of Queenstown and comes highly recommended by everyone in our group. This place also served as my introduction to RJ’s Natural Licorice – and an addiction has been born. I’m eating some right now, actually.

That evening, a cadre of Giggling Girls also staying at the Last Resort expressed their wish that we remain in Queenstown awhile longer. Lacking much enthusiasm for anything in the city apart from those girls, however, we politely declined and headed for Wanaka, a smallish town with a reputation comparable to that of Queenstown. That said, my flatmates had all raved about the place at one point or another so I kept my hopes relatively high.

The journey from Queenstown to Wanaka is deceptive. Even on topographic maps it appears to be little more than a two-hour jaunt northward along a major highway – easily accomplished on a half tank of petrol. This is not the reality. We began to realize this after the first fifty hairpin turns, when the petrol indicator light started blinking. “This’ll be an adventure,” Gabe reassured us. “One of us can hitchhike the rest of the way and bring back a gas can while the rest of us explore the mountain.” Unfortunately, I didn’t consider this much of a bright side – but fortunately, we began heading downhill a few minutes later and cruised the remaining twenty kilometers to a petrol station riding the brake.

From the moment we arrived in Wanaka I knew it was nothing like Queenstown. Sure, Matterhorn Backpackers was crammed with snowboarders from all corners of the earth – but the town had a relaxed, vaguely eccentric character that spoke of continuity between people, town, and landscape. And what a landscape! Watching the sunset from across the late was one of the most peaceful moments I’ve felt since arriving here – and that’s saying something. Another (very different) Wanaka highlight was the Cinema Paradiso, a cramped movie theater full of old sofas and attached to a decadent café. Halfway through our spy thriller, the lights came up and we received treats in the form of homemade ice cream and what may just be the best chocolate chip cookie in the world.

After our film had concluded, Eddie and Gabe decided to explore the pub scene. Wiped out from driving so much, I chose to stay behind. It was that fateful decision what caused my encounter with Anna and Renee. Extremely long story short, I walked into the communal kitchen searching for a writing utensil. Eddie and Gabe found me there several hours later, laughing my head off with a collection of older travelers, among them two Saucy Aussies with an itinerary similar to ours. We spent much of the next day running into each other at various scenic stops along the road to Franz Josef, and upon arriving at our hostel found we were sharing a dorm room with them and that Anna would be ice climbing the famous Franz Josef glacier with us the following morning. It was obviously meant to be!

I’m not even going to attempt to describe the antics of our newly enlarged troupe over the next twenty-four hours, but I will say that such chaos is rarely visited upon the sleepy town of Franz Josef. We were a veritable Mothra of mirth, a giddy Godzilla that left a visible patina of ridiculousness on everything it touched.

Anna and Renee couldn’t have entered our lives at a better time. Relations between Eddie, Gabe and I were becoming strained and none of us could quite figure out why until Anna artfully deconstructed our situation to me that evening. Essentially, she intuited that my detailed planning of our trip had given me an authority and responsibility I hadn’t really wanted, and so she encouraged me to allow my compatriots to take the reins – which was difficult for me but (to a certain extent) exactly what I managed to do from that point forward. The next day we bid farewell to Anna and Renee with promises to keep in touch and offers of hospitality in Australia and the United States, respectively. Then we scrapped my itinerary and voted to roll on towards Greymouth and the Monteith’s brewery.

At this point I think it’s worth reiterating what has become a theme of this blog: New Zealand scenery is impossibly diverse and tends to change drastically over very short distances. It’s rather like existing on the surface of a crumpled map of the Americas; you can travel from Colorado to Brazil to South Carolina simply by traversing a pair of ridges. And then there are the glaciers – larger than most cities, these massive sheets of winter slowly carve their way towards the sea through what appears to be a rainforest. The juxtaposition is quite startling.

We arrived in Greymouth on Sunday, which basically meant that nothing was open besides the New World grocery store and Monteith’s brewery – neither were the slightest bit engaging. I don’t enjoy beer much, but if I did, our flat and emotionless tour guide at Monteith’s would have completely quelled my enthusiasm. So although the town itself seemed pleasant enough, I think all three of us were more than happy to leave it behind. Our next destination was to be Akaroa, a former French colony on the Banks Peninsula outside Christchurch – but those hairpin turns and a widdly petrol gauge thoroughly thwarted our designs. We ran out of petrol just after sunset in the tiny (population sixty-eight) mountain hamlet of Arthur’s Pass, which consists of a YHA hostel, the Arthur’s Pass Store, the Wobbly Kea Tavern, and about twenty houses along the highway. Thoroughly sick of driving, we decided to spend the night – a compromise that rapidly metamorphosed into one of the best portions of the trip. The three of us ended up paying NZ$32 each that night for a mountain cottage with a fully stocked kitchen, wood stove, stereo system, and two full bathrooms. Between the driving, the stress of running out of petrol in the mountains, and the antics of the previous two evenings with Anna and Renee, I don’t think I’ve ever been more content to stretch out and do absolutely nothing for an evening.

Incidentally, have you ever tried stuffing a pita with salmon and Gouda cheese, then toasting it in the toaster and consuming it messily? I highly recommend trying this sometime. It’s pretty much the most delicious meal you can make without any work.

The next morning our little group made a startling discovery; during the daytime Arthur’s Pass is absolutely gorgeous. If you must be stranded somewhere for a day, this would be the place. Eddie and Gabe spent the morning scrambling over boulders to the base of the spectacular Devil’s Punchbowl waterfall while I hauled myself to the summit of Avalanche Peak and surveyed the entire region. The climb was fantastic – it followed an old streambed to the brushline and then tapered off, leaving me the freedom to chart my own course to the top. I was glad to have learned some basic snowcraft during the Pisa Range adventure – I could clearly recognize that much of the ridgeline was ripe for an avalanche. This may have been the reason that so few other trampers had made the trek that day, but I enjoyed the solitude. Plus, I ended up befriending some wildlife. While eating lunch at the top (sardines on wheat crackers and peanut butter sandwiches), a large alpine parrot charged me and stole a banana right out of my hand. Hollering in surprise, I lunged toward the bird – but it flanked me and opened my backpack before skittering off. I spent the next hour sparring with this incredibly smart creature as it perched just outside of my reach and made occasional passes at whatever edible I was holding at the time. That’s right, I found outsmarting a silly bird challenging. Yuk it up; I was mostly concentrating on taking some sweet pictures. Head over to Flickr and check them out; I think you’ll agree that they are worth losing some dignity over. Not all of it. Just some.

On Monday evening we finally rolled into Akaroa for what would be our last hurrah – or lack thereof. There was absolutely nothing exciting to do in this town, which may have been why I liked it so much. Boats bobbed in the harbor; lemons and grapes grew in the hills. The earth turned ‘round and I just leaned back and watched. The tenor was quite reminiscent of Cape Cod during the off-season, but Akaroa’s beauty remains distinct. It maintains, for one thing, a French theme – you want an example? We slept at Chez la Mer on Rue Lavaud and would have dined at the world-renowned restaurant C’est la Vie, were it open during the winter.

These things said, I didn’t consider Akaroa’s French connection genuine. Instead I saw it as a romanticized image of idyllic European life that made the town no less British at heart – just more colorful, relaxed, and food-oriented. Each of these components contributed mightily to my appreciation for Akaroa, but that last one holds a particularly special place in my heart. On Monday we ate dinner at Bully Hayes – the locals told us it was nothing special, but my stomach and taste buds firmly disagreed. The fresh mussels in herbed tomato chili were phenomenal, and both Eddie and Gabe demolished their succulent-looking salmon fillets in a matter of seconds. We capped the evening off by sharing a mouthwatering slice of dark chocolate cheesecake with fresh kiwifruit, mandarins, and blackberries. The next night we headed to L’Hotel for gourmet pizzas so good that we couldn’t bear to finish them that night. We would have gotten dessert there too, had we not already purchased the makings of chocolate chip cookies. What can I say? Akaroa seems to inspire this sort of thing.

I didn’t want to leave Akaroa, but by Wednesday morning I think we could all feel Ithaca calling to us. It was simply time for this odyssey to reach its conclusion. Furthermore, the semester has kicked into high gear and there’s a substantial amount of work to be done. The drive back to Dunners was uneventful. I stopped and bought some RJ’s Natural Licorice at a petrol station, and we witnessed yet another beautiful sunset as we reached the Otago coast – but all any of us really wanted was the security of our own flats and our own beds in a city we could call home. I dropped off my friends, cleaned out the white stallion that had served us so well over the last few thousand kilometers, and threw myself down into a comfortable chair at 505a Great King Street with a steaming mug of green tea.

Reassurance and the Pisa Range

•August 31, 2007 • 1 Comment

Hey everybody! It’s been awhile, but I haven’t given up on you. Please rest assured that I shall continue to update you as to my whereabouts whenever I’m not busy doing other stuff. You’re really that important to me.

Over the weekend before last, I celebrated the completion of several significant assignments – what’s that? You had forgotten that I’m attending school down here? Incidentally, so had I – by skipping off to Queenstown with Aaron and a motley assortment of kiwis from OUTC (the Otago University Tramping Club) for a moderately strenuous backcountry adventure. The plan laid out by Fearless Leaders Amy, Rodney, and Elke involved trekking up into the middle of nowhere alongside the Roaring Meg gorge and crossing some decidedly Lord of the Rings-style territory, then ascending into the clouds and beyond on the Cadrona Pack Track, trudging along snowy ridges and absorbing some fantastic views along with all those UV rays… ahem!

Anyway, everything went pretty much according to plan, and against all odds we got some wonderful weather. Check out the pictures Aaron has kindly supplied for my Flickr account and think happy and possibly cinematic thoughts of Rohan and Helm’s Deep.

I had hoped to provide y’all with a far more detailed account of the Pisa Range adventure, but before I could compose one I found myself venturing forth once more – this time for a weeklong odyssey from sea to Tasman Sea. This journey was of such titanic proportions that I quite honestly forget pretty much everything about the Pisa Range. Sorry. I’m planning on making it up to y’all with an extra-sweet series of entries regarding this second, larger adventure – so dry your eyes and read on, kiddies!

Where Credit is Due

•August 10, 2007 • 1 Comment

I’d just like to vocalize my graditude to Zach, Ulla, and Aaron for their gorgeous photos over the last few weeks. I may receive a new camera of my own in the next few weeks, but until that time comes, continue to enjoy the pictures of New Zealand taken by these great friends of mine!

I’ve been up to quite a bit over the last week or two; hopefully soon I’ll post detailed accounts of Cadbury World, sushi consumption, and so forth. Stay tuned!

Bisztro: Jack’s First Slow Food Experience

•August 3, 2007 • 1 Comment

One of the wonderful things (among many) about New Zealand is the relatively tame price of fine cuisine. I’m not sure why it’s so inexpensive; my guess would be a combination of the availability of quality ingredients and the intensely competitive business environment. Anyway, NZ$30 is still a hefty chunk of change, but that sum purchases meals here that would cost US$70 anywhere else.

Realizing this, I’ve worked some fancy dining into my budget for the year. My first stop: a secluded little place called Bisztro that came highly recommended by Adrienne (and she knows fine dining – she’s an acknowledged foodie who used to live in Paris). Today was Ulla’s birthday, so armed with cash and a suitable occasion, off we went!

Now I’d just like to reiterate – when I say “fine dining,” I refer to the sort of restarant I never thought I’d feel comfortable going to. Bisztro was intimate and lavishly decorated, and when we arrived nobody else was there. The menus were supposedly in English, but pretty much every other word was French. When the food arrived, every dish looked like an arteest had labored over it to the exclusion of all else for quite awhile – though in fact, our orders were filled only an hour after we placed them.

Such is the nature of slow food. It’s supposed to be slow. With that bit of rocket science explained, I’m pleased to report that the experience was well worth it. Those itty-bitty portions that look like a clever way to trick rich people into starving are much more filling than they appear, and if you consume the food as sluggishly as they make it, every savory bite goes through a profound metamorphosis of texture and flavor. I spent almost an hour consuming a piece of lemon sole (I think) wrapped into the shape (and size) of a small apple and stuffed with mussels, some kind of caviar (I think), and almost microscopic potatoes. Best hour spent ever. Well, maybe not quite the best, but getting there.

My one disappointment with Bisztro was the selection of drinks. As a pretentious cocktail hobbyist, I believe that beverages hold intrigue and magic of their own. Good food properly paired with a well-crafted drink can take a phenomenal meal to the level of sublime, and appreciating new sensory experiences is something I believe far too many of us lose as we grow up. I know I’m only twenty – but it’s still remarkable how quickly everything become mundane, isn’t it? One of the only things that keeps me chipper and sane sometimes is forcing myself to walk home a new way or consider some new aspect of a particular rock outside the flat.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Listen to this guy – he calls himself sane and extols the virtues of staring at rocks in the same sentence.” In response I present the following impassioned defense: shut up.

Anyway, I figured that since I love mixology and I’m legally of age in New Zealand and I’m about to have my first slow food experience, I should consider ordering an aperitif. I wanted something novel, something that would tantalize and intrigue my tastebuds. Unfortunately, Bisztro couldn’t deliver. Their bar simply wasn’t stocked by anyone who knew anything about cocktails. They had several products with famous names, but very few were compatible with any of the others, and though I racked my brains I couldn’t think of a drink I wanted that Bisztro could make. And they were using sour mix! It’s fascinating to me that restaurants determined to present patrons with food containing only the finest and freshest local ingredients don’t think twice about serving their beverages with citric acid and high-fructose corn syrup.

Needless to say, I didn’t end up getting an El Floridita or Americano. I chose the beverage of champions and stuck with water which, incidentally, complements any meal whatsoever with aplomb.