Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Joe Blow-Blogger...

I was watching CNN recently, and the anchor was interviewing a guest, about what I can't remember, but what I do remember was his title - "Blogger." Since when did "Blogger" become a title? I can understand "Analyst", "Doctor", "FBI Director", but "Blogger?" They might as well put "Eater" or "Breather."

Okay, the irony of me blogging about the title "Blogger" isn't lost on me. I love "blogging" and I have read many intelligent, hilarious and insightful blog entries of all kinds, from people of all walks of life. I've also read some serious crap from people from all walks of life. I guess my point is this - today anyone can be a writer, or in the case of You Tube, a film director. I'm guilty on both fronts.

And I'm not an elitist, by any stretch of the imagination. I just think that the digital age has made it easy for any shmo to famous, or to be considered an expert. It's truly a double-edged sword.

Nick C., Blogger, signing off...

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Shaken or Stirred-The Cocktail Application For iPhone

“Shaken or Stirred-The Cocktails Application for iPhone”, By Nick Ciavatta

Last month’s much anticipated launch of the new iphone 3G has created quite a stir for “techies”, such as myself, as well as less technically inclined users. This new “it” gadget offers dozens of useful add-on applications, such as games, GPS programs, social networking, music, video, and it’s a phone too! To be honest, the application that really creates a “Stir” for me, is the “Cocktails” application.

A Pocket Mixologist…

Created by Cocktail Historian and software developer, Martin Doudoroff of, and software wizard Ian Baird from Skorpiostech, Inc. (“Cocktails” is a pocket mixologist that caters to the bartender us all. In addition to alphabetically listing the recipes for just about every mixed drink known to mankind, the “Cocktails” application also breaks down the libations by category-including fizzes, flips, flings and punches. Each recipe includes information about specific glassware for each drink, and the user can choose whether a recipe is displayed in Imperial or metric units.

Other functions include the ability to search by keyword, the ability to share recipes with friends via email and, and a favorites key which automatically flags and files recipes for future use. iPhone users can also use the “buy the book” function which performs a search for a purchasable copy of the book from where the recipe came on

An Interesting Mix

Martin Doudoroff founded the project in 2003 with Ted “Dr. Cocktail” Haigh, a prominent cocktail historian, author and collector. Ian Baird, is the president of Skorpiostech (, a Mac and iPhone development shop specializing in the design and implementation of custom and general purpose software applications.

The two met in 2007 and began collaborating to improve the functionality of, when the opportunity to develop the “Cocktails” application for the iPhone arose. “Cocktails” launched in July, 2008 as the preeminent portable cocktail database. They plan to expand the application and add more features in the future.

The Ultimate Bartending Device?

As a former bartender myself, I really could have used the Cocktails application on my iPhone (even though cell phones were probably only used by the military back then). I was forced to drag out the “War and Peace” sized bartender’s guide when a customer came in and ordered a “Knucklebuster” aka “Rusty Nail”, which is comprised of 1.5 oz Scotch and .75oz Drambuie, which you serve over ice in a rocks glass. With “Cocktails”, you can find anything from a basic “Screw Driver” (1.5oz vodka mixed with ice and orange juice and served in a high ball glass) to a “Block and Fall” (.75oz brandy, .75oz cointreau, 1.5oz apple brandy and .5oz pastis-served in a cocktail glass.

According to Doudouroff and Baird, the “Cocktails” application was not created so much as a guide for bar keeps, but for everyone. They have recieved very positive bartender feedback, though, especially from bartenders in New York City, who are dealing with a huge demand for mixed drinks at the present time. Ian Baird warns: “Just be careful that you don’t get lime juice in your iPhone.”

As far as the general public goes, Douderoff and Baird have received emails from people who were inspired by the application and tried new drinks and combinations they never would have attempted before.

Cocktail Evangelist

Martin Douderoff considers himself an “evangelist” for American cocktail culture, and hopes to inspire people to be adventurous in their mixing endeavors.

Prohibition really disrupted cocktail culture, according to Douderofff, and we unfortunately regressed during those years, but in the past ten years or so there has been a real resurgence and interest in cocktails of days gone by, and a passion for new mixed drink creations.

The Cocktails application costs US$9.99, and can be downloaded and updated from the iTunes “App Store.”

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Witness to a Bank Robbery?!

Okay, this is a 100% true story- I swear! I walked into my bank branch in Manhattan last week and one of the bank managers asked me if the police contacted me. Of course, a million things start running through my mind-
was I a victim of identity theft? Did someone screw up something in the condo account? It turns out that it was something much more serious, surreal, and somewhat hilarious.

My friendly bank manager informed me that I was in line behind a bank robber a few days before. The guy, who was wearing bike shorts, a tank top, and a bike helmet, told the teller that he had a stick of Dynamite in his pocket (not this isn't from a Woody Allen movie), and to give him all the money she had in the till.

All this happened before I walked up to the teller window to his left. I did not witness the beginning of the conversation, but I did hear him say "Hurry up-
I don't have all day." I just assumed that he was an a$$hole, as many bank customers in New York are. The teller didn't seem alarmed, so I didn't give it a second thought. I'm not sure what I would have done if I had known anyway.

The police never contacted me, but I'm not sure if I would have been much help. I don't remember what the guy looked like, except for the fact that he was very tall and dressed in bicycle related garb.

I assume that Bank of America won't be hiring me for their security division any time soon.

Friday, May 23, 2008

An American Drinker In Hong Kong...

For many years now I’ve had a list of cities, states, and countries whose bars I would like to patronize, and I have to admit, Hong Kong was never really high on my list, but that all changed recently.

Ned Kelly’s Last Stand

The seventeen hour flight made me quite thirsty, so my brother and I wandered blearily around the Kowloon neighborhood where he lives, and found what would be, if I lived in Hong Kong, my “local” bar. “Ned Kelly’s Last Stand”,11A Ashley Rd.,Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, is named after one of Australia’s most famous outlaws, serves Australian and American food, and has the feel of an Old West saloon. My brother and I were seated on a low wooden stool surrounded by a mini table, and I proceeded to order a Tetley’s English Ale, a smooth, nutty and very creamy brew, with a slightly sweet aftertaste. We had a huge plate of Fish and Chips, Cooks and Chips (a very juicy half chicken with brown onion gravy), and later a huge, juicy cheeseburger (also with onion gravy, upon my request).

This dark, intimate saloon was full of people from all over the world- some locals, some Brits, a few Italians, a big group of Australians, and a retired couple from Southern New Jersey, who were seated next to us. “Are you here to see the band?” our new friends asked. Not really, but were very pleasantly surprised when a seven piece jazz band took the stage. “The China Coast Jazz Men”, exploded with a mellifluous mix of Dixieland, Be-Bop, and jazz standards. Their leader, Collin Atchison, is part band leader, part comic relief, and on Sundays he leads a full twenty-piece band.


The next day I was in a more “Rock and Roll” type of mood, so I headed to “Carnegies”,53-55 Lockhart Rd., Wan Chai, which is similar to the “Hard Rock CafĂ©” only with a more interesting menu, a better wine list and an excellent single malt scotch selection. As I perused the walls, which are wallpapered with all sorts of Rock posters and memorabilia- everything from “The Dick Clark Five” to the “Sex Pistols”, I ordered a Glenlivet, single malt, twelve year old scotch and a Carlsberg Pilsner.

They have an impressive “Crazy Hour” from 6-7pm, where most drinks are HK$19 (US$2.50) which morphs, eventually, into a more traditional “Happy Hour.” The Rolling Stones were blaring over the sound system as a mix of local business men, tourists and students danced (some of them on the bar), and ate the free spring rolls, chips, sausages and chicken fingers. They have an extensive tapas menu, and entrees such as Steak Baguette, and Beef Bourguignon. Carnegie’s gets exponentially louder and younger as the night goes on.

Smuggler’ Inn

The high octane partying in Wan Chai was fun, but I was looking for a more mellow pub, which I found in Smggler’s Inn,90A Stanley Main St. Located on the picturesque Stanley waterfront, or “Stanley Beach”, as the locals call it. Smugglers Inn is a pirate’s paradise, with wooden beams across the ceiling and tables and stools made from old barrels. It’s more of a beer and appetizer type of place with a very good beer selection featuring Tetley’s Ale, Boddingtons Pub Ale from the UK, Guinness, Carlsberg and Strongbow Cider, also from the UK. The pub also has a nice patio with tables with umbrellas right on the water where you can watch the Chinese junks float by. Smuggler’s Inn has a local flavor but was packed with tourists, most of whom had just came from the famous outdoor Stanley Market, which is the best place to go for inexpensive souvenirs and I have to admit, I purchased a little ink stamp with The Year of the Snake and my name in Chinese.

The culinary highlight at Smugglers was the “Bacon Sausage Roll”, which is sausage wrapped in bacon, deep-fried and served on a stick. The nicknamed for this tasty, fattening delight is “Heart Attack on a Stick.” To offset the calories, I ordered “The Ploughman’s Platter”, featuring salad with Ham, pickled onions, boiled eggs, cheddar cheese and sweet pickles.

Ice Bar

I visited so many fantastic bars and restaurants in Hong Kong, but before I left, my brother and I made a stop at the “Ice Bar”, in the crowded, party neighborhood of Lan Kwai Fong. The bar is literally a walk in freezer, shaped like a block of ice, with the bust of Vladimir Lenin standing guard at the door. You can wear a fur coat, parka or winter cap (which they provide), as you down a shot or two of fine vodka. As I sipped my shot of Chopin vodka, I couldn’t help but raise my glass to Hong Kong, which is now officially near the top of my new list.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Booze News

Okay, one of my side jobs at work (which I don't get paid extra for) is "Booze News" Correspondent. In other words, I have the odious job of having to go out and review bars and restaurants and drink a lot of liquor. The research is tough, but someone has to do it. Anyway, here are a few of my articles:

Manhattan Beer Bars

Brooklyn Beer Bars

Seattle Brew Pubs

You can find them all here, as well as stories from Paul Lin and Paul Goguen:

Thanks, and look out for my Hong Kong story,coming soon to a blog near you...


Monday, May 12, 2008

My Very Own Infomercial...

Most people are either sucked in or repulsed by infomercials. I personally think they are truly the last refuge of the hopeless romantic. Don't we all want a product that will clean our house, shave our dog, cut our vegetables and tuck us in? Too bad most of the products hawked in infomercials are total crap.

My dream is not to buy products from infomercials, or even be in the audience- I fantasize about hosting an infomercial! I ultimately sell crap for a living on radio (being a commercial voice over person), so I think I would be a great host for a half-hour jerk fest that runs at 4 in the morning. The only thing is that I wouldn't reveal what the product is at all-just a phone # and web site. The whole production would be a total tease. Hey, if P.T. Barnum could do it-why not yours truly?

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

A Stroll Down Bleecker Street...Part 2

Let's cross 6th Avenue, shall we? As you cross 6th on Bleecker Street in Manhattan you can't help but be drawn towards Joe's Pizza, which is the best pizza by the slice in NYC in my opinion, and I eat a whole lot of pizza. For me it's like the Fred Flinstone cartoon where the wavy food smell line thingies lift Fred right off his feet as he floats towards the delightful dish. Joe's secret is the sweet, tangy, sauce and the super thin crust.

As we make our way down the West side of Bleecker Street it soon becomes obvious that we are dealing with the "best of the best." To our right, certainly the best bakery/pastry shop, Rocco's.They have fantastic coffee and they fill the canollis right in front of you with that wonderfully thick, fattening goop which sometimes has chocolate chips rolled into it. And for a New York City place they have some pretty fantastic key lime pie. You can sit down and enjoy or get it to go- but just get it at Rocco's.

As if desserts aren't your thing, there is always Murray's Cheese Shop right across the street. It is a cheese lovers perverse fantasy come true featuring some of the creamiest, sweatiest, smelliest chunks of pleasure you could imagine. This is the real deal, folks, not your "Land O'Lakes" orange cheddar or cheez whiz. It's not cheap, but it's absolutely worth it!

A couple of doors down is Amy's Bread Shop, featuring wonderfully soft and hot loves of French, Italian, Rye, Pumpernickel, Marble, and some damned good coffee (they claim the best in the City).

And if your so totally stuffed that you can't possibly eat anything else for about 20 minutes, I suggest wandering into Matt Umanov's Guitars which has not only the sweetest axes known to man, but many other stringed instruments and accessories. I buy my strings and picks here, but I'd like to take home a 1958 Gretsch Country Gentleman, thank you very much.

Now that we've gotten a little culture, let's cross the street and go to Fish, for a martinis and mackerels, or Stoli and shrimp cocktail, or maybe just get some awesome oysters. This is Nirvana for seafood lovers, and it's right next to what some consider the best pizza in NYC, John's. You can't get a slice there, but people wait in line for hours to get in. Go early- it's certainly worth it.

If fine meats are your thing, stop in to Ottomanelli & Sons for the best cuts you will probably ever encounter. Again, it's not cheap, but totally worth it.

And last, but certainly not least, my favorite Bleecker Street establishment (and bar in all of Manhattan) Blind Tiger. It is a craft beer lovers Paradise, featuring an ever-changing chalkboard list of the best micro brewed beers from the USA and beyond. The food is also fantastic and very creative. "Rafael's Black Pepper Chili" is perfect with a "Stone Ruination IPA", and their "Old School Grilled Cheese" is the best around and goes great with "Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout."I'm pretty much a regular there, and yes I've written about it:

I hope you enjoyed our little stroll down Bleecker Street. Perhaps next time we will cross 7th Avenue? Or, maybe we will just head back in to Blind Tiger, grab a pint, and sit in front of the fire...

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Stroll Down Bleecker Street...Part 1

Let's face it, my last few posts where kind of depressing, so I figured that I should think happy thoughts, and my thoughts are never happier than when I'm strolling down Bleecker Street in New York City. It is certainly my favorite street, and I've been playing my guitar, drinking good beer, occasionally skinning my knee, and so forth on the magical walk called "Bleecker."

So, this is sort of a travelogue for folks not in the know. A "Blogo Tour", if you will.

Let's start out at "The Peculiar Pub" a really keen "beer bar" almost on the corner of Laguardia Place. This recessed tree house has one of the coolest vibes in NYC. The carved-up wooden benches, crowded taps and Sphinx-Like jukebox envelop you as you open your beer menu, which is broken down by country. It's a mixed younger crowd and the fried mushroom appetizer is fantastic!

Right across the street is "Senor Swanky's", a righteous Mexican place that only takes cash, but has some really amazing burritos, and some pretty stellar frozen margaritas, and outdoor seating with a view of the old "Grand Union" which I think is now an "Amalgamated Foods" or something like that.

Let's walk eastward and hit some of the best music clubs around, including "The Red Lion", "Kenny's Castaways" (where I played one Sunday a month for most of my youth), "The Back Fence" and "The Bitter End." You will find therein great music, inexpensive drinks and low cover charges.

Let's take a rest and get a cup of Joe from "The Puerto Rico Trading Company" which has great coffee from every country that has the bean.

In the next blog entry we will cross 6th Avenue and explore the West side of that fabulous street called "Bleecker."

Friday, February 22, 2008

A Story of Two Nightmares...

I'm a man prone to nightmares, and by making this bold statement, I'm not trying to scare anyone. It's just a fact. They vary in severity and stylistic nuance, but they all make me wake up at least a little bit jittery.

I had two nightmares this very week, and I won't go into detail, but one was horrific-to the point where I could barely function at work the next day, and the other one was actually ultimately inspiring. The interesting thing is that the really BAD one made me afraid of what I could become, and the other one eventually made me feel very optimistic about what I SHOULD become. Again, the personal details aren't important.

I'm a firm believer that when people sleep, even insomniacs such as myself, shit that you can't work out when your boss is on your ass or your bills are late or whatever, you actually work things out so that you become at least somewhat of a better person -which brings me to an interesting question- Do serial killers or politicians ever have nightmares??

Monday, February 11, 2008

Give Up Giving Up For Lent

I'm not a religious person by any stretch of the imagination. People call me an "agnostic", but as Steven Colbert says,"An agnostic is just an athiest witout balls." In any case, the point of this essay isn't to debate the existance of God, or to question anyone's faith. My main concern is the Roman Catholic concept of "Lent."

First of all, I'm not a practicing Catholic, but I respect the concept of "Lent." I believe it is important to sacrifice and to step back and appreciate what you have compared to others who have less, but why do people always "give something up?" People give up chocolate, beer, ice-cream, dancing, movies, and so forth and so on. Instead of sacrificing by "giving up" something that is realtively meaningless in the overall scheme of things, how about doing something for someone that you've never done before?

Instead of giving up chocolate, go down to the local soup kitchen and volunteer. Instead of giving up movies, why not go read to blind people, or take underpriveleged kids the movies.

It seems to me that it makes more sense help the needy than to deny yourself something that you don't really need.

That being said, I better get off my butt. Lent or no Lent, and start doing somthing to make a difference for someone less fortunate...

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Ed Koch Has A Point...

There has been a lot of talk recently about these tax "refunds" or "bonuses" that tax payers are going to get to ultimately help jump start the economy. I've heard pros and cons and pros and cons, but today while taping "A Touch of Clash", Ed Koch came up with a very practical solution (as he is wont to do). The government is afraid that people are going to "hoard" their refunds and spend it foolishly on food and heat, but the former Mayor of New York said "Just send everyone a pre- paid credit card that they have to spend that has an expiration date." I may be paraphrasing, but I think it's a great idea. People would HAVE to spend it on toasters or groceries or an oil change or two.

Of course, there is the problem of the elderly and very poor who would rather spend it on food or medication. My friend Todd and I discussed it and came up with a plan that goes a step further - Issue checks upon request. Set up a web site or 800 number where people can easily leave their SS# or Tax ID # and have a paper check sent. My guess is that most people will opt for the credit card.

In any case, my guess is the rocket scientists in Washington will listen to neither Ed Koch nor Todd nor myself.