Packers Clay Matthews talks Campbell’s Chunky Soup, his badass DNA and great hair

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Clay Matthews could definitely steal my girlfriend and probably yours too, bud. Upon scheduling this interview, my girlfriend did a quick Google search to put a face with the name.

As images of “The Clay Maker” flipped across her iPhone, she said, “Wow. This guy is a complete stud.” The accompanying far away look in her eyes told me all I needed to know; that if given the chance, she would shed me the way Matthews sheds opposing double teams.

Aside from getting the ladies flustered off the field, Matthews has established himself as the best pass rusher in the NFL, thanks to a successful start to his career that rivals any linebacker in NFL history.

In five seasons, Matthews has made the Pro Bowl four times, been selected as an All-Pro twice, been named NFC Defensive Player of the Year in 2010 and won Super Bowl XLV.

I was fortunate to speak with Clay about his career, his lineage and the Campbell’s Chunky “Sacks for Soup” campaign.

Talk about the partnership with Campbell’s Chunky Soup.

For the past year I teamed up with Campbell’s Chunky and created the “Sacks for Soup” campaign. For every sack that I was able to get last year, Campbell’s Chunky donated 2,000 cans of soup; 1,000 to a local Green Bay food bank and another 1,000 to the opposing team’s city. To date, we’ve donated over 40,000 cans of Chunky soup. For every sack, they also donated $1,000, so we were able to get around up to $20,000 for my foundation (CM3 Charitable Fund), so it’s been a fantastic campaign; one that not only provides for myself, but gives back in the process of doing so.

What’s your favorite kind?

My favorite kind thanks to the Green Bay weather and obviously a play on the Packers is the Hearty Cheeseburger. They’re all fantastic, so it’s hard to choose, but just like on the commercial, I like the Clam Chowder and the Spicy Quesadilla as well. They’re all really good, so I have to say all three.

I thought they’d make you a special kind called “Bear Chunks” for the way you’ve annihilated Chicago Bears quarterbacks in your career.

I’m willing to try! I don’t know if it would be a big seller, but I’d be all for it.

Read the rest of this entry »

  

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5 New York City Steakhouses Guaranteed to Make Your Mouth Water

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If you love a perfect steak, New York City is the place for you. Long famous for classic steakhouses serving the highest quality U.S.-raised beef in tasteful surroundings, New York is home to some of the most highly regarded steak restaurants in the United States.

Whether you’ve booked a short or long stay in New York City, you’ll enjoy the experience of eating at a proper steakhouse. Though they have some points in common — they all use USDA prime meat, and offer a tantalising array of appetisers and desserts to bookend your meal — these steakhouses each have their own unique hooks that keep customers happy, satiated and coming back for more. It’s not unusual to hear of families of New Yorkers who have been dining at the same steakhouses for generations.

The only question is, which steakhouse should you enjoy on your holiday? Let’s look at some of the restaurants that get top reviews from steak lovers.

Keens Steakhouse

Keens Steakhouse is a city institution and not only for its meat. Founded in the 1880s, this place has become famous for its huge collection of smoking pipes — they have about 50,000. That’s not to say that the food at this restaurant is lacking. Serving lunch and dinner on weekdays and dinner on weekends, as well as offering pub food for those not wishing to splash out quite so much, Keens has enough variety to keep everyone in your party happy, even if they prefer chicken or seafood to steak. The steaks served are cut from USDA prime meat and dry aged on the premises. In price, mains range from $50 to $60 per person.

Keens is located on West 36th Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues.

The Knickerbocker Bar and Grill

For live music and steak in a neighbourhood standard, the Knickerbocker Bar and Grill in Greenwich Village gets top marks from locals who love the atmosphere and food and appreciate the affordable pricing. The Knickerbocker puts on live jazz performances on Friday and Saturday nights (reservations recommended) and that, coupled with cosy wood panelling and understated decorations, make this restaurant a place you’ll want to come back to on your next trip to New York. The Knickerbocker serves lunch, brunch and dinner, with prices for mains ranging from $20 to $50 per person.

The Palm

One of the oldest steakhouses in the city, the Palm is a family-owned restaurant with four New York City locations as well as a few dozen across the USA and even in other countries. To get the real New York experience, visit their busy flagship restaurant, still at the original address on Second Avenue. Here, lunch is served from Monday to Friday and dinner from Monday to Saturday. Prices for mains are not published on the restaurant’s website, but expect to pay $30 to $60.

Peter Luger Steak House

While in Brooklyn, find time for a meal at the understated but undeniably good Peter Luger Steak House. This is the type of steakhouse that relies on doing just a few things and doing them well. Founded 125 years ago, it keeps to older traditions of cooking steak. The dinner menu, for example, offers only porterhouse steak, lamb chops or fish — and if you are dining with a group, you choose a steak large enough to be divided among the people present. The lunch menu is also spare and offers daily specials with an alternate static choice of steaks, lamb, burger or fish. Get a glimpse of the menu on the restaurant’s website. There is also a Peter Luger Steak House in Great Neck, Long Island.

The Strip House

With two locations in New York and several others across the country, the Strip House has built an enthusiastic following of diners who rave over the signature New York Strip and rib-eye steak and enjoy the upmarket, red decor. At the restaurant’s East 12th Street location, the Strip House offers dinner only, seven days a week, while at the West 44th Street (Midtown) location dinner is served daily and lunch on weekdays. The Midtown location offers a prix-fixe lunch menu for $39, while both locations offer dinner mains between $40 to $60.

If you loathe the idea of a meal without a good piece of beef — if you balk at those veg-heads who think soy can replace finely grilled meat — you won’t go hungry in New York City.

  

Drink of the Week: The Perfect Gentlemen

The Perfect Gentlemen.Yes, Drink of the Week is back this week, but work on the new location at Drink of the Week Plaza continues and I’m really not even remotely settled in yet. Odds are, it’ll be a few weeks before I get back on a more regular, weekly boozing schedule. Even so, I was tempted away by one of my boozy benefactors to come back with a special Valentine’s Day edition of DOTW and a really delicious recipe they gave me absolutely for free. It’s a doozy.

This week’s selection is as sweet and delicious as love itself and, if you drink enough of it, is guaranteed to enlarge your heart…with cholesterol. Very honestly, however, it’s tasty enough that you may might not mind. No joke, the anonymous mixologist who developed this for the Laphroaig Scotch Whiskey people knew what the hell he or she was doing.

The Perfect Gentlemen

1 1⁄2 ounces Laphroaig 10-Year-Old Scotch Whisky
3⁄4 ounce dark crème de cacao
1 1⁄2 ounces heavy cream
2-3 dashes orange bitters
Chocolate shavings (highly desirable garnish)

Combine everything but the garnish in a cocktail shaker with a ton of ice. Shake with all the vigor of a new romance, and strain into a cocktail glass. (The Laphroaig people think it should be stemless.) Top with some chocolate shavings. Toast whoever you’re looking at…and mean it, even if you’re looking in the mirror.

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Like our last great drink,  this week’s selection is a warm and loving finger directly in the eye of the idea that there are no great Scotch based cocktails. What’s really interesting about the Perfect Gentlemen is that it really does seem to be best with this very particular brand, which I’ll admit to having quite a crush on. Yes, it’s true  I got my bottle of Laphroaig 10-Year-Old Scotch Whisky for free but the distinctively ultra-smokey flavor, with a hint of sweetness and a bit of vegetables too, has really grown on me. I might even purchase a bottle some day with my own money!

In the Perfect Gentlemen, the evocative smoke of the single malt Scotch cuts through the sweet creaminess of the crème de cacao chocolate liqueur and the heavy cream in just the right way. I tried the drink with a very decent inexpensive blended Scotch and found the results to be, relatively speaking, dullsville. I’m totally sold on the Laphroaig for the Perfect Gentlemen and would suggest you try it that way, if at all possible.

I also strongly suggest you don’t skip the chocolate shavings. This is Valentine’s Day after all, and chocolate really does seem to be related to love in some unusual way.  Cheapskates will be happy to know that you don’t necessary have to use a fancy or expensive brand. My shavings were produced by taking a dull knife to a Hershey Bar.

I do have to admit, however, that my second Perfect Gentleman was, while still delicious, ever so slightly less rapturous than my first. My measurements may have been slightly off that time because my usual measuring jigger is still packed away somewhere. Or, maybe, it’s just that there’s no topping that first blush of true romance. Happy Valentine’s Day, anyway.

  

Drink of the Week: Blood and Sand

Blood and Sand. If you notice a sort of philosophic air to this post, let’s say that’s because life and death is swirling around Drink of the Week. People in my sphere are being born and others have made their last appearance after good and long lives, and that’s not all. This will be the final entry in Drink of the Week written before our departure from DOTW Central in exciting Van Nuys and our arrival at what we sure hope will be more permanent digs at DOTW Plaza in exotic North Hollywood.

Expect a DOTW return to a more regular schedule in a few weeks. In the meantime, here’s maybe one of the very finest and also most crowd-pleasing cocktails we’ve done here. And, yes, it features Scotch. Such things are possible.

I’ve been circling Blood and Sand, an infrequently revived classic, apparently named for the hugely successful 1922 bullfighting melodrama (viewable via YouTube), for several months. I’ve been biding my time because I had figured out a true Blood and Sand almost had to feature the juice of a blood orange, a fruit which has a relatively brief winter season. Yes, most recipes simply call for orange juice, but now it’s clear to me that the juice of the smaller purple fleshed orange, which looks exactly like grape juice, is the life’s blood of a truly outstanding Blood and Sand. Regular OJ is also definitely an option, but we’ll get to the issues around that later.

Blood and Sand

1 ounce Scotch whiskey
1 ounce fresh blood orange juice or, if it’s all you’ve got, regular orange juice
1 ounce Cherry Herring
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1 orange twist (garnish)

Combine the Scotch, citrus juice, Cherry Herring — a very delicious liqueur you’ll be seeing more of here — and sweet vermouth in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice. Shake as vigorously as a toreador torturing a testosterone-laden bovine and strain into a not too small chilled cocktail glass, adding your orange twist. Feel free to reduce the ingredients down to 3/4 of an ounce if  you want a smaller drink. If you’re a silent film fan, you can certainly toast the charismatic star of the first version of the movie, Blood and Sand, Rudolph Valentino, who famously had his own dance with death much too early. Or, you can simply toast getting to enjoy another day on this earth and being able to sample this super-spiffy drink.

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I’ve been doing a bit of research and it’s hard to find any solid info behind my assumption that blood orange juice was part of the original Blood and Sand, whenever and wherever it was made. The recipe that I basically stole from the prohibition-era The Savoy Cocktail Book makes no mention of blood orange, nor does Ted Haigh in his Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails. On the other hand, the cocktail enthusiast who contributed the Wikipedia stub on the drink specifically mentions blood orange juice, as do several bloggers.

I think it’s very safe to figure that the original Blood and Sand had some real blood orange in it and it makes an enormous difference. The tangier flavor of the blood orange, which has a hint of grapefruit to it, is just the perfect balance for the sweeter ingredients, particularly the Cherry Herring. Although my picture doesn’t do it much justice, it also looks vastly better this way — a deep red, as opposed to a muddy orange.

Speaking of Cherry Herring, it is typically used for the cherry brandy mentioned in a lot of recipes. This is confusing because brandy is usually a distilled spirit that’s a million miles from a liqueur. Apparently, somewhere along the way, cherry brandy, cherry flavored brandy, and cherry liqueurs have all become oddly interchangeable with, I guess, the exception of cherry-derived kirsch, or kirschwasser, brandy. In any case, Cherry Herring, a standby cocktail ingredient you’ll be seeing here again, has become the standard for a Blood and Sand.

Getting back to my own adventures with this drink, whenever I used the blood orange, I found it pretty indestructible — sweet, of course, but with a nectar-of-the-gods sort of complexity to it. For my Scotch, I mostly used Grant’s, a very good, basic choice for this type of drink. (I’m sure any standard brand — Johnnie Walker, Cutty Sark, etc. — will also work just great.) Though some discourage the use of smokier Scotchs, I also found that the strong smoke flavor of Laphroaig 10 Year Old, featured here previously, added a very nice undercurrent to the drink; it also saved an unblooded Blood and Sand from being even slightly cloying when I tried it with regular orange juice.

But that still left the problem of what to do with the still enjoyable, but arguably overly sweet flavor, of the non-blood orange Blood and Sand when you’re using a less smokey Scotch. One decent solution comes from Dale DeGroff’s The Craft of the Cocktail. He reduces all the ingredients, save the OJ, to 3/4 of an ounce, making for lighter, more refreshing but still darn sweet concoction. (He also flames the orange twist…but then DeGroff always fires up his orange peels.)

Ted Haigh proposes a slightly boozier alternative which I haven’t had a chance to experiment with as yet. He proposes an ounce each of juice and Scotch, but reduces the cherry liqueur and sweet vermouth down to 3/4 ounce, while adding a super-sweet cocktail cherry to the mix. Let’s all give that one a try when blood oranges finally go out of season.

  

Drink of the Week: The High and Dry

High and Dry.Yes, Drink of the Week has been away. And, yes, we’ll be away again as we continue our slower pace while DOTW Central relocates to its new digs at DOTW Plaza. Still, I’m finding some time to work new drinks into my schedule between chats with contractors (“It’s going to cost HOW much?”) and figuring out just what an HOA actually is.

One type of drink I’ll be trying to give you more of in 2014 are tiki-inspired and rum-based drinks, at least some of the easier ones. That will partly be because my own interest has been peaked by my soon-to-be neighbors at the mostly downright excellent North Hollywood lounge, Tonga Hut, as well as the far pricier and tonier, but also pretty downright great, Cana Rum Bar in not-so-far away away Downtown Los Angeles. Towards that end, today we have a drink which has just a touch of tiki about it, and which came with a bottle of really good rum attached to it, fairly literally.

The brand is Brugal Extra Dry, the white rum relative of the outstanding Brugal 1888 we’ve featured here on a couple of occasions. It’s unusual for a white rum in that it’s flavorful enough you might actually want to drink the stuff straight on the rocks our maybe with a splash of soda. Nevertheless, we’re about cocktails here, and this particular cocktail is a really delightful tiki-esque treat that would be really easy to make if it were for the slightly tricky business of muddling an apple slice when you don’t quite have a proper muddler handy. Fortunately this drink, created by New York bartender Trevor Schneider and modified very slightly by yours truly, is worth a little effort.

The High and Dry

2 ounces Brugal Extra Dry Rum or standard white rum
1/2 ounce Velvet Falernum
1/2 ounce simple syrup or 2 1/4 teaspoons superfine sugar
1 ounce fresh lime juice
2 apple wedges (one for garnish)
2 ounces soda water
3 dashes Angostura or other aromatic bitters

Muddle (smash) one of your apple wedges in the bottom of cocktail shaker. Add all of the other ingredients, soda excluded. Throw in lots of ice and shake with great vigor. Strain over fresh ice into a Tom Collins or similar type glass. Top off with about 2 ounces of soda water and add your leftover apple slice for garnish. Toast the makers of fine rum, all over the world

*****

I should start by saying that my version of this recipe differs in a few minor ways from the original recipe. For starters, I interpreted the original version’s “cane syrup” to mean a simple syrup made with cane sugar, which I suspect is not precisely the same thing as cane syrup — a thought which didn’t occur to me until the point where I was just about to start writing this post. Never mind, because the results were fantastic every with plain old sugar water. When I substituted an equivalent amount of superfine C&H, the results were also just dandy; perhaps slightly sweeter.

Also, the original recipe called for just one ounce of club soda. I found that it didn’t matter whether I used club soda or seltzer water but that about two ounces produced a more enjoyably refreshing concoction than just one. Since it’s the only healthy ingredient aside from the lime juice, I saw no reason to be stingy.

All I all, I really like the High and Dry. I found it to be a very reliably refreshing concoction that goes down real easy and will be a perfect summertime libation a few months hence. My test subjects enjoyed it very much and they found the combination of sweet, sour, tangy, and spicy/complex notes to be as delightful as I did. I also found it to be the kind of drink that doesn’t completely fall apart if you screw some small part of it up. Which is my way of saying I forgot to add the bitters a couple of times, and another time was forced to use mostly flat soda water, and it was still pretty darn good.

Image ALT text goes here.Aside from the Brugal Extra Dry, the other key alcoholic ingredient in the High and Dry is Falernum. If you’re a tiki cocktail afficionado, you’re familiar with the stuff but, otherwise, probably not. It’s an extremely sweet liqueur — almost a syrup — which is no surprise as it is made from sugar cane syrup and includes a few assorted spices which wouldn’t be out of place in your favorite cookies, candies, or eggnog. I understand there are much better regarded Falernums out there if you know where to find it, and some ambitious folks even make their own. However, the standard is John D. Taylor’s Velvet Falernum and I think it’s pretty tasty stuff. (It’s not bad with some soda water and ice, if you’re feeling like a slightly alcoholic cream-ish soda.)

While this drink was created for Brugal Extra Dry, and it’s a truly excellent rum that’s definitely superior on its own to some of the cheaper, better known brands of white rum, I also have to admit I experimented by making a High and Dry with one of those very Brand X rums. I found the results to be about as delicious. Forgive me.

 

 

  

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