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Now, I’m not entirely sure how everyone else’s drinking experiences went when they became of age. Some experimented with beer first. Others felt that rum was the key. The very courageous took to tequila when it came to their enjoyment of adult beverages. When I turned 21, the legal drinking age in the United States, in college, I turned to a clear liquid that pretty much mixes with anything – except dark cola because that’s just gross. (Sorry Glen!) With tonic water, club soda, orange juice or in cranberry juice, vodka was all good for me. Of course, given my financial situation in college, I had to more or less limit myself to a fine vodka called Popov, and since then, I have learned to enjoy more premium vodkas. Don’t get me wrong, Popov is great in a pinch, but if I’m at the hottest new nightclub in the trendiest new city, Popov’s not my first choice – nor is it available at most places. The right vodka can go a long way into providing a good night with a good taste even if you feel it the next morning. THE USUAL SUSPECTS Vodka, much like any alcohol or product for that matter, is all about marketing. Some vodkas are obviously just put in the public eye more often. They either have a famous person behind them and/or the commercials are just so perfectly done. Of the most popular brands of vodka, Grey Goose and Belvedere are probably some of the most notable – in the United States, anyway. If you’re into the hip-hop culture (as I am), then you’re more than aware of those two vodkas in rap culture, and why not? Grey Goose (produced in France) and Belvedere (made in Poland) consistently rank high in terms of taste. Belvedere is distilled from one type of grain, the Da?kowskie Z?ote rye. The vodka is done in small batches that are distilled longer which some believe makes it smoother. Grey Goose uses French winter wheat from a part of Paris in a column still and alpine spring water. Ketel One, a vodka produced in the Netherlands, benefits from over 300 years of experience in distilling from Joannes Nolet and his descendents. In 1992, Carl Nolet Jr., 11-th generation, moved to the United States to further the sales and production of Ketel One, and he continues the great family success of Ketel One – their 1,000,000th case was sold in 2002. Distilled in copper pot stills, Ketel One is then filtered over loose charcoal. Like Belvedere, Ketel One is also crafted in small batches for smoother tastes. Another vodka produced in the Netherlands, Vox, also has years of experience (400) in vodka distilling. Vox is distilled five times and produced from some of the best wheat grain in the region. Ciroc is a relatively new brand of Vodka that has been getting more and more visibility. In 2007, Ciroc was named the “Official Vodka of New Year’s” by Sean “Diddy” Combs. Being unique is also what makes Ciroc desired. Unlike other vodkas made from corn, rye, wheat or other items commonly used, Ciroc is derived from grapes (Mauzac Blanc from France’s Gaillac region and Ugni Blanc – Cognac region). The new French vodka is distilled five times: the first four done in stainless steel column stills and the fifth done in a traditional copper pot still. All of these vodkas range in price from $40-$70, and at these prices, you’re still getting a very outstanding glass of vodka to mix in with the splash of whatever your choice. Sometimes, it’s not always the price tag that dictates how great an alcohol is, but it definitely can make a decision or two. With that said… THE OVERLY EXQUISITE For the man where price is not an option (pretty much anyone reading this magazine), then I haven’t forgotten about you. There is some expensive vodka out there that is very good, but then there are the ones that just don’t hold up and you’d be better off getting two bottles of the previous category. Jean-Marc XO vodka is it. It is nirvana. It is perfection in a $50 bottle (that’s not a typo). It is that oasis in the middle of the Sahara Desert. Do you see where I’m going with this? In the “Daily Mail”, a British newspaper, a list of “101 Things to Buy Before you Die” was published in 2006. One of those things was Jean-Marc XO. Jean-Marc uses four different French wheat grains – each with a specific flavor. Spring water filtered through Grande Champagne limestone is added and then the vodka is distilled nine times in very small batches using copper stills. Jean-Marc XO has a one-of-a-kind taste that has done extremely well in tasting competitions and is widely accepted amongst the rich and famous. Another very exquisite vodka comes from an unlikely name (to me, anyway). When I had relatively good money in a given month in college, I splurged on a bottle of Stolichnaya. It was a great step up from Popov, obviously, but then I had the opportunity to have a glass of Stoli Elit – probably one of the smoothest vodkas I’ve ever had. Stoli Elit is triple-distilled but goes through one additional step. Elit is freeze filtrated and brought down to -18 Celsius. The result is an ability to find impurities in the vodka for amazing texture and a unique aftertaste. Now, you can’t talk vodka without talking about arguably its main country of origin. Russia is most famous for its vodka, so why not conclude by talking about the country’s best? For $225 a bottle, pour yourself a glass of Kauffman Luxury Vintage Vodka. You’ll quickly know where that money went when you take a sip. Kauffman Vodka is produced from the wheat of a single harvest and then distilled an amazing fourteen times and filtered twice: once through birch coal and the other through quartz sand. Every year, less than 20,000 bottles are produced, and because of its rarity, you can only get it in select venues. For many, vodka is the hard alcohol you start with and then graduate to other liquors. Personally, nothing makes me feel great after a rough week than a glass of Johnny Walker Blue Label, but every once in a while, I have no problem getting the Grey Goose out of the freezer (because you should always freeze your liquor) and pouring myself a screwdriver. It’s classic. It’s soothing. It’s that best friend who knows what’s wrong. Cheers!
Now, I will be the first to admit it: there was no better time than living at home with the folks – especially on those Saturdays where mom fired up the fryer for that first meal of the weekend. Pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage and toast were all regularly found on plates at Casa de Royster on Saturday mornings. Fast forward to today where I’m in my 30s and my breakfast is generally comprised of hot coffee, cold cereal and heavy traffic. If I do have the desire for a decent breakfast, I stop off at one of the numerous fast food venues that just happen to serve the same menu I grew up with. For the hungry exec already running late for the 9 a.m. meeting with the board, sometimes this may be your only option as well. With that in mind, if you’ve never had any thoughts as to which venues are better than others, welcome to A.M. Fast Food 101 with Professor Adio Royster. THE SUN RISES OVER GOLDEN ARCHES In the fast food business, one name seems to always come up before all others – McDonalds. Mickey-D’s has been a staple of world fast food culture for decades, so it’s only fitting I start this piece with a restaurant that boasts “billions served.” With the exception of the Big Mac, no single product on the McDonalds menu gets more notoriety than the McMuffin. Children under the age of 13 would argue the Happy Meal, but thankfully, I’m not writing this in a magazine for kids. You have a few choices when you’re ordering the McMuffin: you can get it with egg (the staple), but you can also add either ham or sausage for the carnivore inside many of us. Add a slice of cheese on a buttered English muffin and viola...breakfast. For the person who wants to get a little more put into their system at breakfast time, the Big Breakfast is for you. The Big Breakfast is a bit more traditional in the sense the food (eggs, sausage, hash browns and a warm buttermilk biscuit) is served on a plate-like object. If you’re REALLY starving, then add fluffy hot cakes and syrup if you have a lumberjack kind of day ahead of you. McDonalds Stats: Egg McMuffin – 300 calories, 12g fat; (add sausage) – 370 calories, 22g fat Big Breakfast (with hotcakes & regular size biscuit) – 1090 calories, 56g fat BREAKFAST FIT FOR A KING In answer to your next question: Yes, the pun is completely intended. Much like McDonalds, Burger King has made a living on a hamburger. The Whopper has worldwide recognition along with the Big Mac, but equally impressive are their breakfast items. Where McDonalds cornered their breakfast market around an English muffin, Burger King decided to go with the croissant to get some quick consumer dollars as they start their day. The Croissan’Wich began selling in 1983, and like the McMuffin, has different variations of what it comes with (i.e. sausage, ham or bacon). Like McDonalds, Burger King offers similar sandwiches on biscuits as well. Recently, Burger King added the BK™ Breakfast Bowl to its menu. Inside a small plastic bowl eggs, roasted potatoes and peppers, sausage, melted cheese and a smoky cheese sauce attack your taste buds. It may not be as convenient or compact as a McMuffin, Croissan’Wich or biscuit sandwich, but if someone else is doing the driving as you’re running late through the drive thru, the Breakfast Bowl isn’t a bad idea. Burger King Stats: Egg & Cheese Croissan’wich – 320 calories, 16g fat; (add sausage) – 490 calories, 31g fat BK Breakfast Bowl – 540 calories, 42g fat SANDWICHES NOT JUST FOR LUNCH OR DINNER ANYMORE Jared Fogle, aka the Subway Guy, was a household name in 2000 when the famous Subway diet debuted, making both Fogle and the restaurant chain famous. Today, Subway is offering tasty breakfast entrees featuring some of the same items found on the regular sandwich menu. On an English muffin there’s a sandwich with bacon, egg and cheese. In the mood for a little more? Subway offers a 6-inch flatbread sandwich with slices of ham, egg and cheese Of course, all offer the option to wash it down with an orange juice or a cup of Seattle’s Best Coffee. What got Subway to breakfast in the first place were their numbers – much like their sandwiches, the breakfast items have considering less fat than others (an English muffin sandwich with egg whites only has 4 grams of fat). Subway Stats: Egg Muffin Melt w/ Black Forest Ham, Egg & Cheese – 180 calories, 7g fat Double Bacon, Egg & Cheese – 220 calories, 10g fat Egg White Muffin Melt w/ Black Forest Ham, Egg & Cheese – 160 calories, 4g fat HAVE YOUR CAKE WITH A CUP-A-JOE, TOO As much as having food is important to many for breakfast, having a cup of coffee is almost as important (or more important in my case). Starbucks is the most famous brand of coffee where there’s a wide range of options(house blends, flavors, international) with a bevy of espresso based drinks (i.e. cappuccino, latte). Starbucks also has an assortment of pastries to go with coffee like traditional scones, biscottis, donuts, bagels, oatmeal and some breakfast sandwiches. In some places, even more famous than Starbucks is Dunkin’ Donuts. Homer Simpson and I would probably agree: “America Runs on Dunkin’.” What Starbucks will never eclipse Dunkin’ Donuts on is the eye-popping assortment of donuts; if you’re a glaze man, they’ve got you covered; if you like chocolate, they have your fix; if you’re adventurous, there’s plenty with swirls or sprinkles; if you’re a traditionalist, you’ll have no problems. However you take your donut with your coffee, Dunkin’ Donuts supplies that specific brand of happiness. Dunkin Donuts Stats: Old Fashioned Donut – 320 calories, 22g fat Chocolate Glazed Donut – 370 calories, 24g fat Jelly Filled Donut – 290 calories, 14g fat HAVE AN OPEN MIND There are many other fast food places not just in the United States, but around the world. If I’m in need of a quick meal as I drive to the office, I stop by the local Jack in the Box – a staple of the West Coast – for a steak & egg burrito with hash browns and a cup of coffee. It fills me up nice, and it’s convenient. Wherever you are in the world, hunger doesn’t discriminate, so any way you choose, you can’t go wrong.
So, you’ve managed to make it through of another Thanksgiving dinner only to face the furious throngs of Black Friday buyers and probably a flurry of ongoing family functions to accompany the holiday weekend ahead. What better way to take the edge off than to start washing down all those turkey sandwiches with one of these chill, autumn-inspired infusions?
Let’s face it, sometimes trying to cook a traditional, whole Thanksgiving turkey is simply overkill. Especially if (like myself) the taste of turkey holds no particular allure and your preference is for another poultry. Or perhaps (again, like myself) you won’t be preparing for the world’s biggest dinner party when planning your holiday meal.
Food Network host & celebrity connoisseur, Ted Allen, created his recipe for a delicious 'Deconstructed Turkey' as part of a Thanksgiving menu for Epicurious a few years back. Since then, it has earned a 100 percent approval rating from users, who said they would definitely make it again!
How awesome is Thanksgiving? It’s the best of all holidays because it’s a time to give thanks for all the important things and people in your life. And what better way to show how thankful you are than by eating your weight in turkey and taters?