Tuesday, January 6, 2009

2008 Papa Doble Bartender Beard Off part 2

Continued from previous post. Yea, I know, a bit indulgent of me.

Now that I've had some time to think about what transpired, I wanna go back and talk about the drinks a bit. Now yea, I like beards and stuff, but that's not the only reason why I enjoyed the beard off. I also enjoyed it because I was able to close out a year with an event that had a group of good drinks (see previous post to download all the drinks and their recipes). Again, speaking from the three that I mentioned previously, Joaquin's Latin Quarter (Flor de Caña 18yr, sugar cane syrup, Peychaud bitters, Bittermen's mole bitters, Deragon bitters, absinthe rinse) was an interesting mix of flavorful and aromatic and really clean and refreshing at the same time.

Allen's Beaver Puss (Flor de Caña 7yr, Allen's NY Apple Liquer, fresh grapefruit, Meyer Lemon Molasses, egg, garnished with apple and nutmeg had apple liqueur and grapefruit in it, but it wasn't really a fruity drink. In fact the presence of molasses and nutmeg made it more like...caramel? Toffee? I think part of that sort of coffee/toffee flavor came from the Flor de Cana as well. I got to try a bit of both the 18 and 7 year on their own, and both had a sort of understated toasty, coffee-like thing going on in the background.

And Brian's My Oh My Ty (Flor de Caña 7yr, La Favorite Blanc, lime, simple syrup, orgeat syrup, Creole Shrub, absinthe) was a bit of an experience because at the first sip it made me kind a go "Whoa, wait, what's happening?" in sort of a shock of flavors. I found that with each cautious sip to figure out what was going on, they were actually turning into gulps. It grew on you awful fierce.

And I listed the second B as being bartenders, but really, it was a great crowd in general. All kinds of folks stopped by. Sasha Petraske, Eben Klemm, even Brooklyn Brewery brewmaster Garrett Oliver was present. There were even folks from out of town who'd lighted upon New York for this event. Jeff Grdinich came down from New Hampshire to bear witness.

The contestants were being judged for several categories. Obviously one of them was length. Then there was also absorbability, touchability, style and etiquette.

In length, there was a tie for the runner-up position between Brian Miller and Phil Ward who both clocked in at 9cm. Allen Katz won with a whopping 12cm with a tight and dense beard that betrayed its true length. For the Asian Afro league, Don Lee managed to beat out Daniel Eun with 7cm.

The touchability part was more of a popularity contest in a way, since it demanded audience participation. People wandered around the bar feeling the beards of the contestants and cast ballots for their favorite.

The "Beardos," as they were referred to throughout the evening, got behind the bar for the absorbability test. Each contestant had to dip their beard for ten seconds in a container with a quart of beer and the remaining liquid was measured. For the Asian Afro contestants, unfortunately, it was a bucket of water. Though I could see how I'd be torn between thinking how hilarious it is that there is a bucket of beer and sad that it is a bucket of beer that would have to be thrown out.

I wasn't satisfied with Don's head dunking technique and thought he could've shoved his head in a bit more, and in the end I was proven correct when Daniel took the prize for most absorbent head of Asian Afro hair in the room. For the Beardos, Mayur Subbarao and Allen Katz tied for third, Joaquin Simo second and Phil Ward first.

For etiquette some chili dogs were procured from Crif Dogs just a couple of blocks up the road. Contestants were to eat without the use of a napkin, and at the same time down some very frothy Ramos Gin Fizzes.

I'm...I'm not exactly sure what the judging criteria for this was. I think it was some variation of the Blackpool Handkerchief Swab Test introduced by Eliazar Huffenpuffen, a gentlemen who was quite trusted for all matters style, during the 87th Annual Drone's Club Flaneur Fete. Hunffenpuffen accused George "Banjo" Barrington of not being a true man about town thanks to the disgraceful state of his moustache. However, before any of the other club members could turn around and see what all the commotion was about, Banjo faked a sneeze to wipe his face. Huffenpuffen went into an apoplectic fit and the only thing that redeemed his reputation was the fact that his valet Xavier picked up the discarded handkerchief (a nice monogrammed square of cloth that anyone should be sort lose) and quite accidentally displayed the soiled side to the room as he asked Banjo whether or not the handkerchief was his.

The above is a load of crock, but indeed a napkin was involved at the end. A dab to see how much came off the hirsute faces. For the Afro contestants, they balanced a book on their head as they tried to make daiquiris. Joaquin Simo won for the Beards and Daniel Eun for the Afros.

The belle of the ball of the events had to be the fashion show. And everyone pretty much went all out. It seemed like Don and Daniel had agreed to make this portion a dance off of sorts since Daniel b-boyed and Don discoed his way down the impromptu runway created by the crowd clearing the floor of Death and Co. Joaquin Simo created a whole accompanying video for his James Bond, er, Beard, inspired runway walk, employing his fiance Rhea Wong as deadly Bond Girl who can't help but find herself drawn to the mysterious man's facial topiary. Mayur powdered his beard for his Santa-themed performance, but then began to strip out of it to the crowd's shrieks, only to have it die down to strangely disappointed "awwws" when they realized he was wearing a smart suit underneath. Phil Ward however, took the cake for theatrics with his appearance as Jesus Christ (costume change number two, if you're following along from the previous post). Not only did he pull out huge enormous cross from out of nowhere, he got friends to act as people needed healing and I have no idea where that one dude was hiding the wheelchair.

Phil won the beard fashion show.

The touchability ballots were all counted and Phil won that as well. And with that the overall winners were announced. For the beards it was Brian Miller in third, Phil Ward in second, and living up to crowd expectations, Allen Katz took first.
Don Lee won the honor of overall awesome Asian afro.

Daniel said he wants to go on the record that he was robbed. He won more categories than Don.

Oh, and what was Phil's third and final costume change? After everything was over, he came out to the bar clad only in boxers to serve drinks. I also want my readers to know that I have photos of said sight and am willing to part with them for a small fee.

As part of his acceptance speech, Allen Katz said, "This is my first beard...and I feel like keeping it for a while." In fact, I got an email from Don earlier this week asking me if I'd seen the new version of Allen's beard. It was now in a Franz Josef style.

Stay golden, pony boy. Stay golden.

Monday, January 5, 2009

2008 Papa Doble Beard Off pt. 1

Editor's note: Brevity may be the soul of wit, but I realized this thing was turning into a monster of an entry. I'm also pressed for time in the office so I don't really have the luxury of going back to prune this a little better, so I'm going to have to bisect it for now.

Dec. 30, 2008

"You're going to be at the Beard Off, right?" Don Lee asked me on Facebook. Of course I was! I would be lying if I were to say that the Papa Doble Beard Off wasn't the event of the year that I was looking forward to. If there was any better way to close out 2008, I wanna hear it. It was like a Christmas present to me. I spent an evening surrounded "The Three Bs of Great Fun": booze, bartenders and beard. That's right, beards...Man, I love facial hair.

But enough about me and my kind of creepy affinity for beards and mustaches.

I wasn't sure if I was late or early when I got to Death and Company. Sometimes it's hard to tell with events. You might show up on time only to wait about 30 minutes as you wait for more people to show up, and sometimes you show up inarguably late only to realize you're STILL one of the (only) early birds. So I was happy to see that there were some confused people being turned away from the door since they didn't a private event was taking place. No, no, not happy, because I mean, sucks to be them and all...wait, no, that came out wrong. I mean, I wasn't glad people were being turned away. I was glad because it meant I arrived pretty much in good time.

It was weird being in a lit up Death and Co. Usually when it's that bright while I'm in there I'm the only person remaining besides staff because I'm polishing off an ill-advised drink I probably should not have ordered ten minutes after last call and most probably I'm getting just a tad bit mouthy to whoever is behind the bar (usually, a very patient Alex Day because I know he'll put up with me for some unknown reason) as everyone's trying to pack up and go home. And thanks to the fortifying powers of alcohol, my quiet drinking become punctuated with unexpected bits of verbal buckshot that sounded perfectly OK in my head but come out really wrong. So this was a little different.

The official judging and competition part wasn't taking place yet and it was official mill about and talk to folks time, so I walked around and bumped into Allen Katz. I asked him which competing categories he felt confident in since he was clearly a crowd favorite. He was looking delightfully old-timey with his beard and outfit combo.

I spotted Phil Ward who seemed to be going for a sort of Warriors or biker gang type thing with his caramel-colored leather vest and hair pulled back in a ponytail. Little did I know he'd go through two more costume changes in the course of the evening.

Don Lee showed up in what looked like a leisure suit and Daniel Eun in a tracksuit and a headband.

My expectations were now quite high.

Jim Ryan, who was not participating in the Beard Off, but still gets mention because of the petit handlebars he always sports, was looking unusually laid back in jeans and a sweater. I asked him what was up with this since I'm used to seeing him in some variation of this, and he answered that it was just him toned down. Maybe I just don't hang out with the guy often enough outside of work-related gatherings but it was a glimpse into the casual side of Jim Ryan.

I even met some guys from the group Branded by Beards, who gave me a flyer for an upcoming event of theirs. The 2009 NYC Beard and Moustache Championships. I had to stop myself from shouting, "Dudes, seriously??"

As my friend Alexis later told me, "It's like your whole life was building up to this moment. Little did you know that when you started working for NRN, you'd be put on this path...writing about bartenders so you could go to this bartender beard thing and then finding out about this?"

"I know, right?!" I exclaimed in response. But once again, enough about my weird admiration of facial hair.

Ty Baker and Joaquin Simo

For those of you who don't know the story behind the Beard-Off, his is its second annual incarnation. The first year it was simply a friendly(?) wager between Brian Miller and Ty Baker. Beard Off commissioner Ty Baker said that this year 20 contestants started out in August, shaving their chins (and in some cases heads) clean, but only eight survived all the way to the Dec. 30 beard off date. Brian Miller said that he would like to thank all the girlfriends who put up with the facial hair madness and there some harumphs and "mm-hmms" of agreement from the crowd. For those who did drop out before the beard off date, a hundred dollar fine was collected from each. The event was also a charity event so these fees went towards the event's charity of choice, the American Nicaraguan Foundation.

The judges of this event were Gary Regan, Dave Wondrich and Julie Reiner. Mr. Thorn commented on how serious the judges were during their judging, and not to mention, the event managed to get some cocktailians of renown to judge not drinks, but beards.

For those who've seen Dave Wondrich in person, his qualifications for beard judging are plainly on his face since he's curator of a pretty sizable beard. And Mr. Regan? Well, just pick up a bottle of Regan's Orange Bitters. Or even better, check out this photo we used to run back in the day when he wrote a regular column for Nation's Restaurant News:

We updated to a more recent photo of him later on, but for a while, that was the face of Gary Regan that stared back at you from the pages of NRN.

The event was sponsored by Flor de Caña, and it was a bartender event, so of course there was drinking to be had. Contestants created recipes for the event using Flor de Caña. I'm pretty sure I tried most, if not all, of them. I definitely remember having Joaquin's Latin Quarter and Brian's My Oh My Ty. And I most definitely remember Allen Katz's Beaver Puss because he was talking about how he made his own apple liqueur for it and, really, the name reverted me back to middle school. I'm sorry if any of you thought I was better than that. Allen feigned ignorance in response to the giggles and said that it's an old way of referring to a bearded man, and what was wrong with that?

To be continued...