Archive for April, 2013

There’s a quote by Mr. Rogers that gets trotted out after a tragedy.  We’ve all heard it a lot over the past week and recent months and years.  Mr. Rogers  suggests that when something bad happens, look for the helpers.  The helpers are beacons of hope, pulling some good out of the terrible and offering some stability in a moment when our collective head is spinning.

It seems we need helpers more than ever.

I wonder what’s happening with the people, the elite and loud, who self-selected and asked us to trust in their willingness and ability to be helpers.  They raised their hands.  They volunteered.  They promised to be better suited for the job than anyone else.  They asked for our vote.

They weren’t drafted like the spectators in Boston who in a flash went from cheering at the finish line to making tourniquets out of t-shirts and carrying victims to safety.  Or the responders in Newtown who had to document and clean up after the slaughter of their community’s children.  Average citizens, stuck in the wrong place at the wrong time, are brave, heroic and poised.  They personify grace.  Our eyes well and chests swell with pride when their stories are on the news.

Dear United States Senators:  Take notice.

Last week, the gun bill expanding criminal background checks for gun purchase, died in the Senate.  The bill wasn’t overly ambitious.  It didn’t break new ground.  It didn’t restrict anyone’s right to buy a gun.  It didn’t move forward because our leaders are not acting as helpers.

Our elected helpers lack grace.

When I fly, I take my shoes off to get through security.  I submit to a scanner that dissolves my clothes, allowing unknown persons to check my body for lumps.  I submit to pat downs.  I don’t carry shampoo or lotion.  I do this because one crazy guy tried to blow up his shoes.  Another guy tried to light his underwear on fire.

I don’t mean to make light of these acts.  The public needs to know that the government is doing everything possible to make the sky safe.  I get it.  I agree.  The idea of a terrorist act that takes a plane full of people down is shocking and hideous.  But have we become so desensitized to violence that we don’t view mass shootings in our schools, on our streets and in our theaters with equal horror?

Are you a terrorist if you bring down a plane but you’re something less grotesque, less worthy of attention from elected helpers if you kill elementary school kids or college students or movie watchers or elected officials?

I’ve written and rewritten this post.  I feel woefully ill-equipped to discuss the issues surrounding guns and violence.  And I’m afraid our legislators are counting on that – They’re hoping to never feel heat from their constituents since they already feel pressure from lobbyists.  My thoughts in this little margarita blog might not mean anything but maybe by raising my voice, I can (in a small way) be a helper too.

So though I worry I don’t have a firm grasp on all the forces that rule the day, my representatives should know this:

I hold you responsible for my safety and the safety of those I love and safety of those I’ll never meet.  I think mass killings are acts of terror and the person who carries out the carnage is a terrorist.  And you, our elected helpers, must act with the same urgency and solution based thought to prevent the next school shooting as you do to prevent other acts of terror.  You asked us to make you leaders.  You can’t be less heroic than innocent bystanders who never asked for the role.  It can’t be too much to ask for you to be honest, to engage in fair dialog and to put your personal interest after the interest of the country.

The margagogo.com  Seattle Bureau Chief raised her voice when she wrote to Senator Mark Pryor, one of the four democrats who voted against the gun control measure and a representative from her home state in Arkansas.  She said in part:  “… although … I understand the election-year pressures you face, the lost lives in Newtown — and the hundreds of others lost in Arkansas and around the nation every year — are more precious than politics.”

At this point in my blog, I usually write about a drink I enjoyed (or didn’t) or a restaurant I visited and I tie the mixology and gastronomy to the blog topic.  Around the issue of violence and safety, terrorists and terrorism, we need to be sober so today, I have no drinks to share.  Hopefully, someday, we can toast to progress and celebrate an era when we don’t have a second thought for our safety.

And for those who don’t remember, the Mr. Roger’s quote is:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

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Yes, Easter was more than a week ago. But this post is about hunting for what you want (and waiting) so the time lag is fitting.

I’ve never been good at hunting for anything.

I remember being very young and lining up in a park for an Easter Egg Hunt.  By “hunt” I mean bright-colored plastic eggs set in plain sight on the lawn.  I plotted a complex strategy for a toddler (run straight forward and grab eggs) and visualized my empty basket filled with Easter bounty.  I came up empty.

In the minutes it took the throng of kids to grab every egg in sight, I managed to collect just one, single, broken, empty egg.  Where did I go wrong?

  • I might not have sprinted off the start line.
  • I probably should have better assessed the competition and repositioned to be in a cluster with weaker kids.
  • And, it’s fair to say that between my glasses (since age 2) and my eye-patch (a constant childhood accessory), that I couldn’t tell a clump of  grass from an Easter Egg.
Glasses, eye-patch, perfect

Glasses, eye-patch, perfect. But who did my hair?

One-eyed - Is it any wonder I couldn't find an Easter Egg?

One-eyed – Is it any wonder I couldn’t find an Easter Egg?

Sometimes, even with the best of plans, reality stacks against you.

This past Easter weekend, reality topped strategy when we embarked on a hunt for a great margarita in the great state of Vermont.

We started off at SoLo Farm & Table in Londonderry, VT.  Recently nominated by Bon Appetite as one of 2012 best restaurants, it was a strategically sound choice.  Great restaurants have great bars, right?

The food at SoLo is worth the trip.  I loved the Oxtail croquettes.  They were a menu special and quite special they were.  I love croquettes so much that I could probably devote a blog to them, so I’m biased.  If you go and they have these on the menu, get two orders.

We also had Duck Confit Hash (this was a little weird and skip-able) and Pekin Duck Breast and Roasted Suckling Pig (amazing). If I go again, I’ll remember the portions are giant and order for sharing and more tasting.  This meal was so good I was sad when I was full.

I was also a little sad because I didn’t find the margarita I was looking for at SoLo.  It was off-balance with too much citrus  and not much tequila.  I think the flower was sad for me too.

The margarita hunt continued in Manchester, VT at the chic and spendy Equinox Hotel.

We spa-ed and lunched and I ordered a margarita at the fancy-schmancy Marsh Tavern.  I was sure the Equinox employed top-notch mixologists and my hunt would be over in moments. And then my “margarita, rocks” came “up” in a martini glass.

Marsh Tavern Marg

Marsh Tavern Marg

It looks like a gift from heaven with the sunlight glinting off the glass. But it just tasted weird. Like maybe lavender infused the home-made mix.  The independent panel of judges reports that the Bloody Mary was just “meh”.  So the drink ordering tip at Marsh Tavern is go for wine.

We sat at the table, pooling our mental powers to come up with a sound strategy for finding a good margarita – we Googled it.

After ruling out the option to buy a franchise to a chain called “Margaritas” we settled on a local called Gringo Jacks.  A Yelp review suggested the best way to enjoy Gringos was after a long hike … we spent several hours shopping (and that’s almost the same thing) so off to Gringo Jacks we went.

Cactus Glass - 'Nuff Said

Cactus Glass – ‘Nuff Said

My newly appointed Syracuse Bureau Chief has a smart rule of thumb – A margarita that comes in a cactus glass probably isn’t that good. ‘Nuff said.  And with this third margarita try, I started to think that I needed to refine my search – there seems to be a tequila shortage in Vermont and someone needs to get to the bottom of that.

But if you hike or ski or don’t do either, and  you’re with a big group, this is a bright, happy place to be.

I promise there is a moral to this story. And there’s a happy ending too.

Finally, I found Easter Eggs – LOTS of them.

Easter Eggs!!

Easter Eggs!!

We eventually did find a GREAT margarita – back in New York City at Mesa Grill. And who doesn’t want to grill and chill with Bobby Flay and this seriously good marg?

Mesa Grill, NYC

Mesa Grill, NYC

Now to the moral: Sometimes, the journey is the point and the thing you think you need, really isn’t important. Yes, I do love a good margarita and I couldn’t find one in Vermont (sorry, Vermont, it’s true). But I had something even better – good friends who were willing to humor me and help in the hunt.  We also had parking mishaps and discount shopping and lots of laughter. And I know the laughter was genuine since the drinks didn’t have any tequila in them.

And mostly we had fun.

When you have friends, your molcajete is always overflowing.


Coming soon: A margarita to fall down for.

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