Why can’t I stop snacking?

Focus

Have you heard of the Marshmallow Test? A marshmallow is put in front of a young child. The child is told that they can get the single marshmallow if they want to, but if they wait they will be given two marshmallows instead. Walter Mischel, the scientist who designed the test, discovered that successfully waiting instead of breaking down and eating the one marshmallow was correlated to such things as SAT scores and BMI and a bunch of other things later on in life. Waiting for that second marshmallow is a skill transferable to a lot we care about.

What I care about isn’t getting two marshmallows instead of one. Rather, what I’m trying to do is stop eating marshmallows altogether. Like Mischel, I don’t much care for the things. But unlike him in the Colbert interview, I find myself eating them all the same. If I pass by a bowl of candy, whether I’m hungry or not, whether I like the candy or not, the odds are I will eat one. And around this time of year, that’s not a hypothetical. For the next few days, there will be bowls of candy everywhere.

candy bowl

And once the Halloween candy is gone, there will be pumpkin pie left over from Thanksgiving. And then this happens:

christmas cookies

All told, that’s two months of constant opportunity to snack. Inconveniently, it happens at about the same time as my cycling, my main calorie-burning activity, starts to taper off for the winter. Not a good combination.

The question I ask myself frequently, while taking a bite of that Milky Way bar that I’m not really enjoying that much anyway, is, ‘Why can’t I just say no?’ Daniel Goleman, in his book Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence gives an interesting possible answer; it’s multi-tasking.

I’m a sucker for multi-tasking. Give me a chance to take care of many things at the same time, and I’ll take it. It makes me feel so efficient, and so productive. Goleman points out just one little problem with multi-tasking: technically speaking, it doesn’t exist, or at least not the way we think it does.

Goleman tells us that our mind is actually broken up into two parts. First,there’s the back of the mind, which is in fact unconsciously attending to many different things all at once. It’s keeping us breathing, and making sure we don’t miss that hidden step, and considering how we feel about that strange interaction with a friend, and putting together a rough draft of a blog post, and a thousand other things, all at the same time. It’s kind of like we have a bunch of little minds, all busy on their own projects all of the time. That’s all going on at the back of the mind.

The front of the mind decides what of all of those busy little back of the mind projects we’re going to give our focused attention at any given time. The back of the mind is like a classroom of students, and the front of the mind is the teacher, deciding which student to call on. And the key is that the front of the mind can only call on only one thing at a time.

When we try to get the front of our mind to multi-task, it fakes it, by switching really quickly from one back of the mind thought to another without time, consideration or thought. That quick switching is really unsatisfying, and really tiring. It takes a lot of effort to take the focus off one thing and on to another. And our mind is making all of that effort for nothing, because no idea really gets its due. Imagine that the teacher in the classroom has only one microphone, and runs from student to student, hurdling over desks and skipping down aisles, take the mic away from one student mid-sentence to dash across the classroom to another, only to do it yet again. That’s what we’re asking our mind to do when we try to multi-task.

This effort makes us tired, and irritable, and stupider than we would normally be. We make bad decisions, like unthinkingly grabbing yet another Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.

The key to getting out of this mess is not to try to shout down all of the voices. The scolding voice telling everyone to quiet down is just one more member of an already overcrowded, noisy classroom. It only adds to the cacophony. Instead, we have to slow things down.

What we need when our mind is overstimulated and overtired is something engaging enough to capture the attention of the front of our mind, and soothing enough to help it quiet down. Nature, including our own bodies, is full of such things: the sound and feel of our own breathing or our footfalls, the light falling on the leaves of a tree, the breeze moving the grass, a flame, waves. There’s a reason why we like candles, and campfires, and sitting by the ocean. These are natural antidotes to the stress that comes from the attempt to multi-task.

So, if you find yourself eating one too many slices of pumpkin bread, take a bike ride, or a jog, or even just a 10-minute walk around the block. Watch the wind blow the fallen leaves, or take a glance at a slow-moving cloud. Ask yourself at the end of the walk how you feel; your answer will probably be kind of nice, calm, a little more yourself. And, the next time you pass the snack table, you’ll find yourself able to resist.

There Are Two Kinds of Partiers in the World

fine fall

There are people who don’t like parties. They’re lovely people, but I’m afraid this blog post won’t have much to say about them. Instead, it’s about the oft-missed and crucial fact that there are two separate but equally important groups of partiers: the party throwers and the partygoers.

Too often, these groups get conflated. It’s assumed that if you like parties, you like parties–as simple as that. That’s a rookie mistake. Of course, both the partygoers and the party throwers love parties. They enjoy them enough that a partygoer might, in a moment of desperation, throw one, just to make sure it happens; and a party thrower might go to someone else’s on occasion, because it turns out most people insist on throwing their own birthday parties even when you offer to do it for them. But going to a party and throwing a party, when you think about it, actually take much, much different skills. And parties really hum when the two groups find one another and each play their proper role.

food straight on

Steph and I are party throwers, and pretty much our favorite people in the world are partygoers. As people who likes to host parties, there’s nothing quite so enjoyable, reassuring, and affirming as knowing there’s a group of people we can depend on to show up and have a good time at whatever party we throw. If we’re talking about the barebone basics of a good party, really all you need is a party thrower and two or three partygoers. But it seldom stops there. If you’ve got a strong team of party throwers and partygoers, they have a way of making sure the room is full and the party is hopping.

Party Throwers

A sure sign of a party thrower--standing at the stove. By the way, you'll notice I'm wearing shorts at our fall party. Nothing guarantees an unseasonably warm weekend like Steph deciding to throw a fall-themed party

A sure sign of a party thrower–standing at the stove. By the way, you’ll notice I’m wearing shorts at our fall party. Nothing guarantees an unseasonably warm weekend like Steph deciding to throw a fall-themed party.

Party throwers create the atmosphere. They plan the menu. They do the shopping and the cooking. They tend to make way too much food. They make sure the platters are well-stocked and the drinks are filled. They’re most comfortable behind the bar. If you have way more glasses than your own use can explain, you’re probably a party thrower.

glasses

Partygoers

The early arrivals. It's probable there's a partygoer or two here.

The early arrivals. It’s probable there’s a partygoer or two here.

The partygoers show up, and they usually stay awhile. They often get the party started, and they usually make it last. They try everything, and tell everyone how good it is. They have a full glass. They jump into the theme of the party with both feet. They have a way of keeping the conversation going, of drawing other people in, and of somehow emanating the feeling, ‘Isn’t this a great time?’ Are your weekends usually booked? You’re probably a partygoer. If you find yourself stacking up more than one party per night, it’s a sure thing.

Want a great party?

Really all it takes is figuring out whether you’re a partygoer or a party thrower. Don’t feel guilty if honestly, deep down you like your parties better than other people’s, or alternatively if you are always over at your friend’s house and never inviting them to yours. Embrace your role–revel in it, even–and find a partner or two of the other variety. Set a date. Invite a few other people over. And, there you go, a good time will be had all. It’s practically guaranteed.

Recipe of the Party–Pumpkin Lasagna

  • 4 slices of bacon
  • 1/2 lb fresh mushrooms
  • 1 small onion (chopped)
  • 1 15 oz can pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 1 teaspoon sage
  • 9 lasagna noodles
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup mozzarella
  • 1 cup Parmesan
  • salt
  • pepper

Cook the noodles. Meanwhile, sauté the bacon, onion, and mushrooms until the vegetables are tender. Combine the pumpkin, cream, and sage. Add salt and pepper to taste. Layer noodles, pumpkin sauce, mushroom mixture, and cheese until you run out of space or ingredients.

Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes.

This Just In: I’m not as vain as I thought

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I shave my legs.

I think people have gotten used to it, but I used to get a lot of questions about why in the world I’d do such a thing. The answer is quite simply, ‘Because I’m a cyclist.’ At a certain level of experience and seriousness, it’s expected of a male cyclist that they’ll shave their legs. So I do.

Shaving my legs is something of a signal of where I fit in the cycling pecking order. Other cyclists who don’t know me will take a quick look at my legs to get an initial read on how steady I’ll be in a pace line, how fast I might be able to go, how much I know what I’m talking about. Of course, I then need to back that up with how I ride. But shaving gives me a leg up, if you will.

I can tell you by experience, as few can, that the Venus is by far the best razor for the legs and the worst for the face.

I can tell you by experience, as few can, that the Venus is by far the best razor for the legs and the worst for the face.

That’s all fine and good, but it only provokes the further question: why, of all things, would cyclists choose leg shaving as their badge of commitment?

The old chestnut is that it makes you more aerodynamic. There’s just one problem with that explanation: no proof. The one study ever done on the aerodynamic effects of leg shaving showed an advantage so miniscule that it was irrelevant over the course of a standard bike race. By the time I started shaving my legs, nobody even tried to give the aerodynamics reason anymore.

The popular replacement for the aerodynamics explanation was that it makes treating road rash after a crash easier and less painful. I think this one is just another shaky explanation. First of all, people get road rash on their arms too, but no one shaves them. And secondly, crashes just don’t happen enough to make it worth it. In the many hundreds of rides I’ve taken since I started shaving my legs, I’ve crashed only a handful of times, and gotten road rash just once; but I shave several times a week. How does that make sense?

Here’s where I eventually landed. Male cyclists shave their legs for roughly the same reason women do, and for pretty much the same reason women wear heels too, for that matter: to show off our legs to their best effect. We work hard on our legs. Why hide them behind a bunch of hair? I didn’t  know who that first bold male cyclist was who shaved his legs; but regardless of whatever excuses he spouted about aerodynamics and road rash, I was pretty sure it was a guy who was especially proud of his calves.

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But wait! This fall some evidence came out that shaving your legs does, in fact, have a significant aerodynamic effect. A triathlete named Jesse Thomas showed up for a wind tunnel test having neglected to shave his legs. More as a joke than anything else, they decided to run their own little comparison. Both the rider and the people running the test were stunned; it was so incredible that they tried it out on several more cyclists. The results were similar each time. Shaved legs made the riders about 7 percent more efficient. It had a far bigger effect than the special riding position Thomas was trying out, a new and improved helmet, or the skin suits everyone has been raging about this year (You can read the whole article in the September 7th Globe and Mail).

So, there you have it. It turns out I’ve been shaving my legs for performance reasons all along.

froome time trial

10000 Miles: September Report

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I’m starting to see signs that my 10000 miles are coming to a close. The leaves–a little early, it feels to me–are starting to change. They’re the most beautiful delivery mechanism I can imagine of the sad news that summer is over. I’ve had to break out the cool weather gear, starting out a few rides with fingered gloves, arm warmers, and leg warmers. Thankfully, it’s still warm enough that I’ve had to shed a layer or two by the end of the ride.

Leg and arm warmers: warm enough to keep off the chill, easy enough to take off mid-ride, and small enough to fit in a pocket.

Leg and arm warmers: warm enough to keep off the chill, easy enough to take off mid-ride, and small enough to fit in a pocket.

This is a beautiful time of year to ride. The crisp weather feels refreshing after the hot summer, and the landscape is different–and for now in quite a picturesque way–every day. I hope the fact that it’s started a little early means I get more of it.

My numbers aren’t quite as good as last month. A bit of bad health and a busy schedule kept me off the bike several days when I would normally ride. Nonetheless, I was over 700 miles, which was my goal for the post-sabbatical, pre-winter months. So, I’ll take that as a success. Not every month can be a 900 mile month.

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For a grand total for the year, I’ve now ridden 8657 miles. That leaves me with only 1343 miles to go, or 448 per month; t’s looking more and more like I’m going to do this thing.

This was early in the month. You can just see the first tree or two to start changing colors.

This was early in the month. You can just see the first tree or two to start changing colors.

The Great Vermouth Taste-Off: Championships

Semi-Finals: The Reds

top reds

Dolin v. Boissiere

The contest between Dolin, the best Top Shelf Red, and Boissiere, the best inexpensive Red, for championship of the Red conference was our tightest yet. We both changed our mind several times. They’re very similar in taste, perhaps the most similar overall, in a category that actually had a lot of interesting variety. Both of them are sweet but complex, good for sipping and for cocktails. Finally, gun to the head, we decided …

The Red championship goes to Dolin!

dolin

It was a very close thing, though, and I still wonder which one will really end up in our bar. The $4 price difference between the two could go either way. I could imagine us saying, ‘Well, it’s only $4 more for our favorite,’ or, ‘Why would we spend $4 more for a vermouth we had such a hard time deciding was better?’

I think the overall lesson we learned through the Great Vermouth Taste-Off was in vermouth drinking to stick to the middle path. Consistently, the mid-priced brands of Boissiere, Dolin, and Noilly Prat rated highly with us. We didn’t find cheaper white ones even palatable, and while there were interesting reds all along the price continuum, the mid-priced ones were still our favorites. The more expensive brands generally didn’t offer extra value for the money, and often weren’t our favorites even in a price-blind comparison. There is, of course, one exception to the rule: our white winner, and finalist for overall champion, Cocchi Americano.

The Utterly Silly Championship: Cocchi v. Dolin

There is no sensible reason to have a White v. Red championship round. It’s not like anyone is ever going to choose between dry vermouth and sweet vermouth in their bar, or in their drink. Both of these bottles are going to stay on our shelves, regardless of who wins. But, I’m a completist. Vermouth must be drunk, and a winner must be declared. So, here goes.

finals

And the winner is Cocchi Americano!

We immensely enjoyed sipping both of these great drinks, but in the end we just couldn’t say no to the delightfully balanced flavor and palate of Cocchi Americano.

As a final toast to all the contestants, let’s have the two finalist work together in our recipe of the day:

Recipe of the Day: The Champions’ Half-Sinner Half-Saint

  • 1.5 oz Dolin Sweet Vermouth
  • 1.5 oz Cocchi Americano
  • 1 oz Pernod

Mix the Dolin and the Cocchi in an ice-filled old-fashioned glass, and then carefully pour the Pernod on top so that it floats at the top of the drink. Sip the drink through a straw, so that it gradually shifts from Vermouth-heavy to Pernod-heavy over the course of the drinking experience.

halfsinner

How to Successfully Invite Too Many People Over

 

making margarita

Steph and I love to throw big parties. I don’t think I can clearly express to you just how true that is. Actually, maybe I can: we were at a wedding a couple of weeks ago, and Steph turned to me and said, ‘Remember how fun it was to plan our wedding. We should do that again,’ and instead of saying, ‘Are you crazy?’ I said, ‘I know, right? How do we manage that?’
I’m figuring that, seeing as we got married about a year and a half ago, it’s about 23.5 years before we can do something on the scale of a wedding. But we’re biding our time by finding whatever opportunities we can for smaller big parties.
For example, a few weeks ago we invited Steph’s classmates over for drinks–all 200 of them. A number of people asked us if we’re crazy, and they had a point. Our 950 sq. ft. apartment isn’t exactly ideal for 200-person parties. But we’ve done this a few times. We knew 200 people wouldn’t come. Considering the rainy weather, the distance from campus, and the lack of a nearby T stop, we figured we’d get something like 30. We underestimated. The Kennedy School MPA students are champion partiers; about 50 of them made it to a strange neighborhood on a rainy Wednesday.

At the party's height, we had about 40 people crammed in our urban-apartment-sized living room.

At the party’s height, we had about 40 people crammed in our urban-apartment-sized living room.

No worries. Our motto is the more the merrier. We’ve done this a few times, and we’ve learned how to successfully host (perhaps overly) large numbers of people, and to have fun doing it. Our key is to keep it simple, but with touches of elegance. Here are a few of our tricks.

Pitchers

pitchers

Good cocktails are a non-negotiable element to any party we throw, but we learned early on that it just doesn’t work to mix cocktails individually. We ended up spending the entire party behind the bar, and still had people waiting far too long before a drink was in their hands. The solution: mix a few featured drinks ahead of time in pitchers. That’s, of course, what has made the margarita a tried-and-true party cocktail. But we found that we could stretch the boundaries of pitcher-ready cocktails a bit to give our guests something a little unexpected. That could be by putting a little twist on the typical pitcher drinks, like swapping out the standard margarita for a Watermelon Mint Margarita, our all-time most popular party cocktail.

Taking it a little further, we found we found that two small tweaks allowed us to serve pitchers of cocktails that you’d normally never find in a pitcher:

1. Ditch the Solo cups

We keep a rather large amount of actual glasses, but even our extra supplies aren’t enough when the parties get this big. We have to resort to plastic. But we found out right away that we couldn’t use the standard solo cups. People just aren’t used to the idea of full potency cocktails in pitchers, and had a tendency to over-pour; pitchers full of high-quality cocktails disappeared too quickly, and the quality of conversation went downhill a little too quickly too, if you know what I mean. So, we replaced the solo cups with pricier, but classier and more appropriately sized disposable cocktail cups.

2. Add soda water

Our tastes run in the direction of cocktails that are served straight up, but that just wasn’t practical in pitcher volumes. So, we gravitate for our parties toward cocktails that call for a soda float, like the Negroni or the Southside. For this party, we even mixed a variant of a cocktail that doesn’t usually call for a soda float: a Reverse Black Manhattan. It seemed to come off well. We mix the other elements of the cocktail ahead of time, chill for a while, and then add the soda as the guests start to arrive; it keeps the cocktails fresh and a little bubbly. The cocktails end up lighter than if we were mixing them individually, but still taste like a genuine cocktail with some interest to them and some thought behind them.

Popcorn

popcorn

We learned this trick from the amazing Manhattan speakeasy Raines Law Room. It’s basically a drinks-only establishment, but they know that even at a place that’s all about the cocktails their guests might need a little sustenance with their drinks; so they bring a bowl of Parmesan-Herb popcorn to the table. It’s perfect. Popcorn is quick and easy to make and to eat. And it’s shockingly easy to make popcorn interesting by adding some fun flavors. Cinnamon-Spice has proven to be an especially popular variant. Just toss the popcorn with salt, butter, cinnamon sugar, and a little bit of hot sauce, and you have the perfect salty, sweet, and starchy companion for your cocktails.

Labels

label

This is a little touch that makes a big difference. We make custom labels for our food and drink. We’ve used miniature chalkboards, gift tags, postcards, and more. For this party, Steph used her new Silhouette cutting machine (like a printer but it uses cutters instead of ink) to create a sort of stencil effect for the tags. It’s a small way to create a design theme for the party. It’s practical: people like to know what they’re eating and drinking. And it expresses planning and forethought: we knew enough ahead of time what we were going to serve to make custom labels for it.

 

And there you have it. When we put these few things together with an overly large invitation list of fun people, we end up with a great evening.

Watermelon Mint Margarita

The key to this recipe is the frozen watermelon. Using watermelon instead of ice makes for a remarkably flavorful frozen beverage.

  • 4 cups watermelon, frozen in one-inch chunks.
  • 1/2 cup tequila
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  • 2 teaspoons fresh mint

Simply blend it all in a blender and serve!

The Great Vermouth Taste-Off: Top Shelf Reds

 

Having proclaimed Cocchi Americano the champion on the dry side of our vermouth bracket, and having finally consumed or given away the contenders from the inexpensive sweet quarter, it’s now time for us to move on to top shelf sweet vermouths.

Let me introduce you to the contestants:

expensive reds

As I mentioned in the Top Shelf Whites post, Lillet is not technically a vermouth; but as a cousin to vermouth which serves much the same function in a cocktail, I thought it appropriate to allow it to compete. The small bottle is Carpano Antica, the oldest and priciest vermouth in our entire contest; the half-bottle, at $15.99, cost more than the full bottle of Dolin. Carpano Antica is quite famous and well-regarded; so I really wanted to try it. But I couldn’t really bring myself to shell out for the full bottle until I knew how it compared. Good thing too. Here’s how the four fared in our taste test:

red in order

The Winner: Dolin

I mentioned in the Top Shelf White post that money mattered with the whites. Less so with the reds. Our favorite, Dolin, was the cheapest among the Top Shelf reds; and the expensive old guy Carpano was our least favorite. That’s not to say that Carpano was by any means bad. In fact, we genuinely enjoyed every single sweet vermouth we tasted, cheap to expensive. We simply enjoyed Dolin most.

Here’s what we’d say about these four tasty beverages:

  • Dolin was sweet, spicy, complex, and well-balanced;
  • Lillet was the sweetest of the bunch. It’s a pleasant sweetness, but in the end we enjoyed the well-roundedness of the true vermouths more. Lillet seems nice to have around for specialty purposes (and we’ll probably do just that), but can’t really serve as a general alternative to vermouth. We liked sipping Lillet (though we liked sipping Dolin just as much), but think it has narrow utility in mixing;
  • Punt e Mes was the bitterest of them. I thought it was bitter in a good way, but Steph preferred the less bitter options;
  • Carpano Antica was the least complex of the set. It had strong vanilla notes, tasting rather similar to Cinzano. The big strike against it was its cost. At four times the price of Cinzano, it just didn’t seem worth it.

Recipe of the Day: White Negroni

Here’s the recipe that brought red Lillet into our bar.

  • 1 oz. gin;
  • 1 oz. Cocchi Americano;
  • 1 oz. dry vermouth;
  • Red Lillet wash.

Swish a sip or so of red Lillet around the inside of a martini glass. Technically, you’re supposed to dump out the remnants, but I let them gather at the bottom of the glass for just a little more red Lillet in the final product. Add gin, Cocchi, and dry vermouth to a shaker with ice and shake. Pour into the Lillet-washed glass. Enjoy!

10,000 Miles: August Report

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I was back to work this month. After piling up the miles during my three-month sabbatical (5380 of them between Easter and August 4th), I was wondering just how precipitous the drop would be once I was back in the office.

As it turns out, I was very pleasantly surprised. Sure, August’s 915 miles is a lot less than July’s 1700. But I think it was a pretty impressive accumulation for a fully employed person, and far more than the 600 I needed to average for the rest of the year to hit 10,000. It almost makes me think I should have been doing more than the sabbatical.

Besides the (less than) expected decrease in miles, here’s how going back to work has affected me:

  • My rides were shorter–my longest day was 69 miles, whereas hitting 100 in a day was a fairly common occurrence during the sabbatical months;
  • I rode more days–commuting made me get on the bike every day, rain or shine, except Tuesday the 19th. Rain, plus multiple errands to run, made me take the car to work that day;
  • I was slower–my average went down to 15.5 mph for the month. That’s due to my slower pace while commuting. On my rides for exercise, I actually went faster than during the sabbatical months, a benefit, perhaps, of more rest for the legs.

Through 67% of the year, I’m now 79% of the way to my goal. 2074 miles to go.

The Great Vermouth Taste-off: Top Shelf Whites and White Championship

Well, I’ve finally worked through the bottles of inexpensive white vermouth, one way or another (our favoring this summer of the Jump for Joy having helped out quite a bit, as well as using the Gallo as a cooking wine). So, it’s time to move on to the next bracket: expensive whites.

It should be noted that in talking about vermouth ‘expensive’ is a relative term. I didn’t spend over $20 on any of them. It is possible to buy  more expensive ‘vermouth’–a new breed of American producers is happy to charge you $40 or so per bottle–but I decided to exclude these high-priced new kids on the block. As the quotation marks probably indicate, these aren’t exactly vermouths by the classic standards. American standards for what counts as Vermouth are more lax then European ones, basically coming down to, ‘Does it smell and taste kind of vermouthy?’ While I don’t mind a bit of an experimental spirit, I think if you’re going to use a name that already exists, you should fit the qualifications of the name. I’d be more amenable to these American liqueurs if they simply called themselves ‘aromatic aperitifs‘ rather than confusing things by appropriating the label ‘vermouth.’ Also, I think you should have to prove your mettle a little before doubling or quadrupling the price point. If these American ‘vermouths’ still exist ten years from now, maybe I’ll add a bracket for them, at whatever price they’re selling at by then. In the meantime, I’ve stuck with the classic vermouths, produced in their native land, the borderland between France’s Savoy and Italy’s Piedmont.

Actually, that’s not entirely true, because while I’ll excluded the American pseudo-vermouths, I did allow for one French and one Italian aromatized wine that aren’t vermouths and don’t call themselves ‘vermouth.’ These are quinquinas. They are made by the same process as vermouth, and play the same role in cocktails, but the cinchona root, rather than wormwood, is their defining ingredient. The only way to fill out the bracket was to include these quinquina cousins.

Having gotten that out of the way, let me introduce you to our contestants:

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Dolin and Noilly Prat are the proper vermouths. The quinquinas are Cocchi Americano and Lillet Blanc (in the flask). I borrowed the flask worth of Lillet from my friend Dan because I’d earlier done a Cocchi v. Lillet taste test and landed on Cocchi; so I didn’t want to put out the cash for a whole new bottle of Lillet when I knew it would be just for this taste-off. I should also note that Noilly Prat is actually the same price, at $11, as the winner of the Inexpensive White bracket, Boissiere. I thought it was a little unfair to make Noilly Prat punch above its weight, while letting Boissiere contend against cheaper competition. But a) I couldn’t find Carpano Bianco, which is the other vermouth I really wanted to try, b) I need a fourth contestant for this bracket, and c) I really wanted to add Noilly Prat into the competition. So, we’re calling Noilly Prat expensive for our purposes.

The first thing that stuck out  is that price does matter with dry vermouth–and that $10 seems to be the magic number. Whereas Boissiere was really the only one in the inexpensive bracket which we truly liked, in this bracket all four were quite enjoyable, both straight and in a cocktail. The Cocchi and the Lillet were sweeter and had more body, whereas the two vermouths were lighter, crisper, and drier. But all four were well worth drinking.

Curious how Boissiere compared to all four of this bracket’s offering, and not just the round’s winner, I decided spur of the moment to move immediately on to the championship. Here are the five drinks in my order of preference:

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The Cocchi Americano took the prize because of its exceptional balance. It was sweet, and sour, and herbal in the right proportions, and it’s neither too light nor too heavy. Second place goes to last round’s winner, Boissiere; though it was a pretty tight race among all four of the non-Cocchi contestants, Boissiere gets a podium finish because of its high value for price. I plan on stocking both Cocchi and Boissiere in my bar, using Cocchi for a more luxurious flavor and for more vermouth-heavy recipes and keeping Boissiere on hand for workaday mixing purposes.

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If you’d like to celebrate Cocchi Americano’s victory, may I suggest a simple Cocchi on the rocks?

Cocchi on the Rocks

  • 4 oz. Cocchi Americano
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • lemon twist

Pour the Cocchi over ice in an old-fashioned glass. Add the bitters, garnish with the lemon, and enjoy!

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10,000 miles: July Report

july

And July is the big winner!

I beat May’s mileage record by 54 miles, beat June’s speed record–up from 15.8 to 16.6 mph–, and came oh-so-close to 1700 miles. I rode a lot of great miles this month. Some of the highlights:

  • Shortest Day: July 11th, at 11 miles (with 4 days of no riding at all);
  • Slowest Ride: July 20th, I did my .3 mi ride to breakfast at 8.8 mph;
  • Fastest Ride: also July 20th, when I rode the 75 miles after breakfast at 20.1 mph;
  • Longest Day: July 19th I rode 102.8 miles, also at 20mph. It was a good weekend.
  • Average miles per day: 54.5. Or 62.5, if you don’t count the days I didn’t ride.

I’m afraid July will be my high point during this 10,000 mile journey. Since I return to work in August, 1600 mile months will be a thing of the past. But I think I’ll be alright with this 10,000 mile goal, because while I just missed 1700 miles for the month, I did hit a big milestone:

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Seven thousand miles in seven months has a nice ring to it. Five months–and a mere 3000 miles–to go.