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Creating my own barrel-aged Smoked Manhattans

My finished Smoked ManhattansWhether you call them barrel-aged cocktails, casked cocktails or something else, they’re a tasty reward for drinkers looking for a bit of adventure. 

In my case, I created what I call Smoked Manhattans, a blend of rye whiskey, sweet vermouth and bitters. What surprised me was not that my end product was tasty -- it is -- but that its three ingredients took new directions inside a charred cask. Granted I’m a novice at barrel aging liquor, so expectations at the start of this process were cloudy to say the least. But even if my next batch is a mess, I’m loving the adventure. 

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Central Coast is swimming in good local beer

Anyone who has visited the Central Coast the last few years probably knows 805 is more than the region's area code. The flagship beer from Firestone Walker Brewing Co. in Paso Robles has quickly become a favorite throughout Central California. 

A sample of tasty Central Coast beers I found during a recent trip to the coast.But what many might not realize is that Firestone Walker is just one of more than a dozen micro and craft breweries between Cayucos and Solvang that are producing a wide range of beers to fit most tastes. That abundance of choice gives valley residents yet another reason to visit a region already blessed with fine wines and food, beautiful views and wonderful weather. 

Firestone is the best known of 13 commercial breweries dotting the region, and its ever-growing Paso Robles headquarters just off Highway 101 is brewery/restaurant/tasting room/merch shop sprawling multiple buildings. While Firestone has become the dominant regional brewer in volume, it's also the most adventurous of the bunch, blessed with brewmasters who consistently stretch the limits of beer making.

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Review: U2 "From the Ground Up"

I’ve been a fan of U2 since snagging the 45 single of “I Will Follow/Out of Control,”  one of the greatest A/B sides ever. 

Over the years, my interest has come and gone post 1987 as the band grew into global superstars and  experimented and pursued a variety of influences and projects (“Achtung Baby” and “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” good, “Rattle and Hum” and “Zooropa“ bad). 

Frontman Bono (Paul Hewson) can be insufferable with all his look-at-me/hep-the-world work, but at least he acknowledges that in promoting truly life-changing projects. What keeps me coming back, however, is the group dynamic: four childhood friends from Dublin who remain tight, equal, and genuine. 

That comes out in “From the Ground Up” U2 360° Tour,” a glossy, thick-stock 256-page photo book chronicling the biggest, boldest tour in rock history, a three-year journey that ended in 2012. “From the Ground Up” includes tons of photos and good behind-the-scenes observations from Dylan Jones. The photos get stale after awhile (you can only capture the band and set in different views so many ways), but the quality is top-notch throughout. 

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Review: “Rock Stars Stole My Life”

The unassuming man behind some of my favorite music publications — including the beloved Word magazine — has just released his memoir, and it’s a fun ride. 

Mark Ellen’s ”Rock Stars Stole My Life!: A Big Bad Love Affair with Music” documents an adventurous 40-year career in British music journalism, starting as a freelancer with New Musical Express; later in editing roles at publications like Smash Hits, Q, Mojo and, perhaps most memorably, The Word; and side trips into broadcasting as a controversial stand-in for legendary British DJ John Peel and as host of “Old Grey Whistle Test.” 

“Rock Stars” is a fast read, with short chapters and tons of vignettes spanning the mid-1970s through late 2012 (when he hilariously documents the sausage making behind Rihanna’s boondoggle of a tour). There are so many unexpected adventures that I started to get the sense Ellen is a musical version of Forrest Gump, a quirky but likable fellow who seems to find himself in the most unexpected of scenarios. 


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Deceptive advertising

Not much offends me more mad than deceptive advertising, and here's an egregious example I found tonight on, a normally excellent site I frequent. 

Here's a screenshot of the top of the homepage. Take a look and see if you spot any deception.

I'll wait. 

OK, time's up. 


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