2013 JC van Staden Malbec

From the vintner:

Nothing. There is nothing on the label.

The (only available) truth:

This sumptuous, splendid, magnificent, heavenly, delightful wine came courtesy of NakedWines.com. For just $40 a month, you can buy discounted wines to your heart’s content. And rest assured, all of their discounted wines are sublime. (Please note: NakedWines.com has no idea I’m writing this.)

Despite this wine not being available on store shelves (presumably), I suppose it’s only fair to give it its due. Therefore, let’s discuss the label: I could have made a more interesting label. On to the next point.

The tongue is watery, which under normal circumstances would be unacceptable. But if we consider how ancient Greeks, recognizing the debilitating effects of full-strength alcohol, would routinely water down their wine in order to prolong their scholarly and intellectual discussions, then perhaps we will come to appreciate this current wine for what it is.

(As a side note, contrast this ancient practice with the modern practice of watering down alcoholic drinks to maximize profits. This practice of diluting an alcoholic beverage seems paradoxical considering that modern establishments are designed specifically for avoiding intellectual stimulation. One would therefore believe that such an establishment would shun dilution of alcoholic beverages, as doing so would promote critical thinking and discussion.)

The wine’s consistency is watery. Oh, who am I kidding. This isn’t wine; this is water.

Out of a score of “Will Buy Again” (WBA) or “Won’t Buy Again” (WBA), this wine definitely earns a WBA.



2012 Les Dauphins Côtes du Rhône Réserve

From the vintner:

Les Dauphins
Côtes du Rhône • 2012

‘Les Dauphins’ represents all that is good about the heritage of classic French wine. It comes from the sun drenched vineyards of the Rhône Valley in the deep South of France.

Expect classic Côtes du Rhône, bursting with ripe summer fruits, all backed up with rich, spicy, peppery flavours.

The truth:

Les Dauphins grabbed my attention by being in the bargain bin. It was eleven dollars, I believe. Also, being a French wine—and having a date with me—helped, even though she wanted Italian wine. My solution? I bought both bottles. Baller.

Its label is fanciful enough. It looks like a young girl trying to look like a woman. I don’t know what that says about me; I did, after all, pick up the bottle. In any case, the label sports old-fashioned script (think 1800s), a scene of a chateau, and pretty blue and red colors. It’s a matte label.

The nose is vaginal, with hints of acidity while still exuding an enticing levity (whatever that means).

The tongue is light and delicate. There is no hint of alcohol, and the musky flavors of the vine are only just present. I must admit, I quite like it. Like my date.

The wine’s consistency is that of blood in a strong anticoagulant. Its deep maroon color is very appealing.

The aftertaste is . . . almost nonexistent. The alcohol is almost unnoticeable, and pleasurably so.

Out of a score of “Will Buy Again” (WBA) or “Won’t Buy Again” (WBA), this wine earns a WBA.



2013 Agua de Piedra Malbec

From the vintner:

Agua de Piedra
Argentina, I.P. Mendoza

The spaniards as early as the 16th century followed by the Jesuits and more recently European immigrants notably Italians, were all fascinated by the beauty of the country. The result is a combination of warmth, style, and tradition. Situated at the foothills of the Andes and fed by the purest water from melted snow, the vineyards produce grapes of outstanding quality. Made to enjoy, this wine with spiced red plum flavors combined with this silky texture is ideal for meat or pasta dishes.

The truth:

Water of Grape
Argentina, Argentina

Agua de Piedra draws attention to itself by its simple yet elegant label design. At the top is an oval sticker with the words “Agua de Piedra” prominently displayed above the image of a rock and some words. Beneath that is a rectangular, aged white, matte, textured label. It very simply and beautifully pronounces its vintage.

Nose is woody, aged, and wonderful. I prefer Malbec. There is a hint of blood dripping from freshly killed game. I love Malbec. Mossy earth ever so slightly accents the afore mentioned qualities. I love Malbec.

Tongue is floaty and buoyant. It sits atop your tongue like a fairy dancing on a finger. The alcohol is ever so not present, hinting at the mischief it might impose upon you. I love Malbec. The wine evaporates in your mouth like a good steak or fillet o’fish, specifically tuna or salmon. Oh it’s quite delectable. (What am I referring to here?)

The wine’s consistency is that of blood in a mild anti-coagulant. It is not possible to see through the wine.

The aftertaste is that of young wood just barely entering its aging process. I love Malbec. It’s smokey like a kiss beside a campfire.

Out of a score of “Will Buy Again” (WBA) or “Won’t Buy Again” (WBA), this wine earns a WBA.



2012 Capa Garnacha

From the vintner:

100% Garnacha
D.O. Cariñena – 2012

Capa Garnacha, with its deep red and violet tone, is a complex wine that expresses aromas of berry and fruits like dark cherry, blackberry, cassis and notes of exotic spices, minerals and toasted oak leaving a lingering chocolaty finish.

The truth:

100% wine

Capa Garnacha’s initial appeal comes from the simple elegance of its label design, as well as the fact that it has the word “Spain” on it. The label’s deep purple square, framing a defiant bull, relates a tale of passion and power, alluding to what the consumer can only assume is the quality of their wine. The word “Capa” is set in a calligraphic typeface on a silver background, recalling a more simple time of farmers and monks. Beneath that sits a bone white rectangle that elegantly offers the particulars of the vineyard and vintage.

The wine bottle itself imparts nothing special beyond being a standard form. However, this particular form factor appears to be customary of Italian and Spanish wines, which Americans typically associate with quality. The shape therefore is a convenient marketing tool.

The nose offers hints of dirty mud after a day of heavy foot traffic. There are also hints of soiled children’s coloring tools, perhaps Waldorfian crayons. The alcohol is noticeable.

The wine’s consistency is that of blood in a mild anti-coagulant. Held up to light, it reveals it looks like diluted blood. When shaken, it behaves much in the manner that water would. It also refrains from sticking to the side of my stemless wine glass. The alcohol is not noticeable.

The tongue’s foreplay is light and airy but displays a flatness only seen in prepubescent children. Its aftertaste offers an even stronger presence of soiled children’s coloring tools. The alcohol is slightly less noticeable.

Out of a score of “Will Buy Again” (WBA) or “Won’t Buy Again” (WBA), this wine earns a WBA.



Postmortem: too damn sweet.

Review of Ender’s Game

She’s a hot gal and she’s leading you on and telling you “Oh oh whack away get yourself hard ’cause I’ll suck you off once it is” and she keeps cooing and promising dirty things and fondling her tits, all the while you’re sitting there playing with your cock imagining her luscious lips all on your shaft and then you feel yourself, you feel it coming and you say “Hey doll it’s gonna be here soon how ’bout it?” and she looks at you with a coy smile and says “Silly boy, I was just messin’ with ya” and walks on out, so now you’re sitting here with a useless chub in your hand, unable to come ’cause you stopped yourself in anticipation of a bj but it ain’t happening so all there’s to do is sit and pout.

My Face Is Like, Three Times Bigger Than Yours

I suppose I should start this with an explanation. I don’t normally review restaurants. In fact I don’t care to review restaurants, or at least I didn’t care to do so. But I found myself in a situation where it was necessary and I surprisingly jumped at the opportunity. This is because of an incident that transpired during my first weeks here in New York. I had just attended my graduate school’s orientation and the second year students offered to take the first years out to their regular watering holes. They first chose to take us to a nice, Parisian style establishment named Café Loup, I suppose since it seemed to be the most evocative of the writerly spirit. So we all made our way there en masse, guided by the tender prodding’s of our more experienced brethren. However the fact that we were all so excited to be finally involved with the program proved to be a point of contention for the staff of Café Loup. We were warned that if we did not quiet down we would not be served, followed shortly by a demand to pay our checks and vacate the premises.

Needless to say many of us were miffed by this. We were after all paying patrons who had a right to socialize with our compatriots. I, however, was incensed. I was so flippantly angry that I puffed up my chest and brazenly walked up to the man who had ejected us from the premises. Tapping his shoulder I made damn well sure we made eye contact and with the most indignant voice I could muster I told him, “Fuck you.” I then proceeded to storm out, foiled temporarily by a reticent door that consequently made me feel stupid. Damn door could have ruined the moment.

So when I found myself confronted by the option to write a review about a restaurant I immediately thought of Café Loup. What better opportunity to incite a hilariously disastrous dining experience than by returning to a place where the staff would undoubtedly remember me as the “fuck you” guy? What could go wrong? Well, everything. But that was exactly the point. Look, to put me in a mythological perspective, and to avoid the typical descriptions of “dick”, “POS”, “prick”, etc., I am the living embodiment of Loki. With mostly tamed social anxiety issues. But that’s beside the point. What is right on the point is how I failingly attempted to coax several ladies to dinner with me and then finally proceeded to cause what mayhem I could on my own. Aside from the absence of an oblivious date, the night was ripe for exploit.

Whether you believe me or not, I was not nervous. I was unclear on where exactly the café was and experienced a moment of shock when I found myself confronted suddenly by its ominous light blue awning; but again, I was not afraid. I will admit that I was a bit apprehensive entering the café as I expected to be yelled at and asked to leave, an outcome I had already decided to resist and force them to physically eject me from the premises as I yelled beautiful inanities.

But that wasn’t the case, unfortunately. I was met by a man who looked like he was prime for a midlife crisis, politely asking me if I would like a table. I was confused at first both by his pleasant approach and the fact that I initially took him for a customer. In any case I told him that I would rather eat at the bar since I was on my own. I don’t mind doing things on my own, but there’s no point in adding injury to insult. Yes, I meant to write it that way. Leave me alone.

What bothered me the most was the fact that the man who I had “Fuck You’d” did not appear to be present. Scanning the pleasantly lit dining room I only saw well-dressed baby boomers chatting over delicate plates of cuisine and glasses of wine. I took a moment to congratulate myself for dolling myself up for the occasion, otherwise I would have stood out like a cock in a bowl of noodles. But I was disappointed. Not having “Fuck You’d” man here essentially negated the entire point of coming. What was I to do now? Sit here, eat their food, drink their spirits, and then write a review about it? What a waste of life.

All that was left now was to sit at a fancily appointed bar and stare at myself in the mirror, which to an extent I was okay with. I wanted to make a few faces to pass the time but decided that the other patrons would not understand. Behind me, enveloping the old geezers properly picking at their orders, was the dining room. The entire space felt cozy with its low ceiling and dim lighting, an appropriately cultured soundtrack resonating softly as a final touch. I could see why these folks, who appeared to be regulars, liked coming here. This was as close to Paris as one could get beyond shelling out ones hard-earned money for a flight. What I could not understand, though, was how any of my classmates thought this would be a nice place to write. While a pleasant setting, Café Loup did not in any way seem to be conducive to creative inspiration. At least not in the way I imagined Henry Miller finding inspiration. Or Bukowski.

As I mused about the atmosphere and the copious amount of spirits on the shelf before me I suddenly realized that “Fuck You’d” man had appeared. For whatever reason he had stepped away from the bar, and now facing each other I could see a sudden moment of clarity in his mind. I imagined his internal dialogue going something like this: “Ah, another patron. Let me provide him with a menu and… oh great this prick!” I swear he took a double take, but he said nothing of the affair. I was slightly disappointed. I came for a scene, for some form of mild civil disobedience, or wait, I think it would have been more along the lines of unapologetic impropriety. Despite the fact that he had apparently recognized me, that I had the gall to return and put myself in a position that forced a confrontation, that I offered no apology or inkling of remorse, this good man handed me a menu and asked what I would like to drink.

So there I was waiting excitedly for him to yell at me as he had done to my compatriots before, and instead I was being served like all the other geezers around me. I would like to say that I felt relieved, but I wasn’t. Now I found myself in a position where I had to behave as an upstanding patron and actually order something. I had already come to terms with the fact that I was going to dish out a considerable amount of money, but to do so for a dinner void of excitement, well that was a travesty. Not only that, the bourgeois air was weighing so heavily on me that I now felt like I had to breathe it or suffocate. Therefore a proper dinner was in order.

The menu was quite sparse, to the point of my flipping it over to see if there were more options, which there weren’t. They did provide a “prix fixe” menu, which I took to mean “fixed price” by my modest deductive and French language abilities. For $32 I would be able to select an appetizer, an entrée, and a dessert, each consisting of three options. In a continued effort to find the diversity of their menu I proceeded to compare the prix fixe menu and the regular one. To my dismay the prix fixe menu consisted of select items from the regular menu, so that was that. I opted to go the $32 route, selecting a green salad with olive oil and cheese and a rotisserie style chicken with steamed vegetables. Noting that I was having trouble selecting what I wanted, “Fuck You’d” man kindly offered to bring the menu back after I had finished my entry so that I could select my desert.

To maintain the image of a moneyed, young professional, I decided to drink wine. Not knowing how to pair any of the wines (again, the selection was modest), I asked “Fuck You’d” man to offer a recommendation. My request was met with a flair of frustration; it was apparent to me that he did not really know how to pair wines himself. After looking pleadingly at another staff member he finally suggested a pinot grigio, but as I preferred red he then recommended a pinot noir. The only pinot noir on the list. My first impression of the wine was that it was far too acidic and light. As the night would wear on and as I began working on my second glass, however, I would end up changing my mind. He did fill my wine glass to the absolute brim both times, so at least that was consistent. And much appreciated.

Food having been ordered I found myself in the awkward position of not knowing what to do while I waited. I spent some considerable time stink-eyeing myself in the mirror and giving the other diners bored looks. A basket with three types of bread was eventually placed in front of me. I have no way of knowing what was what so I will call them white bread, wheat bread, and rye bread. They were all enjoyable in their own right, but what was delicious, almost a delicacy, was the butter. While not direct from the bovine it was light and sumptuous. The salad was much like the bread: tasty but not quite noteworthy. The greens were good and bitter, the olive oil was just right, but what was heavenly was the brie. I think it was brie.

To be honest the cheese threw me through a loop at first. Upon setting eyes on it I could feel the flood of endorphins in my brain. I instinctively thrust my fork towards it, ready to enjoy its creamy goodness. But as soon as my fork hit I found that it was rock solid. I was utterly confused and momentarily angered. Was this a beet? How in the world, why in the world, who would do such a thing? Is not a love of cheese a universal truth? Never mind the lactose intolerant. Hell my best friend is lactose intolerant but refuses to stop eating cheese, therefore making him the most hilariously gassy person I know. And he’s about to become a doctor.

Once my momentary rush of anger subsided I grabbed my knife and resigned myself to not having my brie. But as I cut it I noticed that it was crumbling in a manner that a beet would never do, at which point my hypothalamus lit up once again. It was brie! And lord, was it the most angelic brie I had ever had. I can only guess that my physical reaction to eating that brie, along with the arugula, was akin to the rush a heroin addict must feel as they shoot up. It was heavenly (I suppose it is now apparent that I have a particular affinity for the udder).

Once I had finished my salad and sampled the breads I was finally brought my piping hot entrée. And when I say piping hot, I mean nearly infernal. I spent a considerable amount of time blowing my meat and looking like an imbecile before I was able to put it in my mouth. Look, I am all for bringing out a customer’s food as quickly as possible. Nobody wants to wait. But to have to sit with your meal in front of you, waiting for it to cool down, teased by the luscious odors that waft up into your nostrils is cruel and unusual. Waiting to eat your cake is worse than not getting your cake at all.

To make matters worse was, when I finally managed to taste the chicken, what had once smelled delicious turned out to be overly sweet. It was cooked well (and definitely thoroughly) but lacked any intrigue. I cannot say how disappointed I was by it. The one item that was supposed to be sweet, the mashed sweet potatoes, was perfectly balanced with understated notes of sweetness. The mashed potatoes were equally enjoyable; they had a definite buttery note in the manner in which my father prepares them. Additionally there was steamed broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and some other stem like vegetable that I failed to recognize. They all tasted like steamed vegetables and I nearly forgot to eat them.

Aside from the disappointing chicken there was also the issue of presentation. One would expect that an establishment that models itself on French customs would serve appropriately sized portions. What you receive at Café Loup are bastardized American portions, by which I mean that they pile an inordinate amount of food onto your plate. It was so bad that I had to dig through the mashed sweet potatoes and regular potatoes to find the vegetables. In fact my plate was so cluttered with the food that I am just now remembering that I also had another cooked sweet veggie on my plate, which was surprisingly good. I don’t know what it was. Ultimately the presentation was nothing short of a hodgepodge of forgettable edibles.

What was not forgettable was the peach tart “Fuck You’d” man suggested I try. Remember my love for the brie on the salad? That was close to my reaction to the tart. The tart was capped with a generous dollop of wonderfully light whip cream and ringed with blueberries, pineapple, kiwi, and strawberries. The final touch was a sprig of mint which I found, when broken apart and arrayed on the tart, made the peach tart orgasmic. The desert would have been a dream if it were not for the fact that I had been overloaded by an entrée I was unable to finish. Due to that massive entrée, I struggled to remain focused on the subtle deliciousness of the peach tart and my accompanying black coffee.

When one goes to an establishment to eat, the hope is to leave sated and ready to relax. A good establishment will make you happy to stay and digest the food comfortably, perhaps ordering a few aperitifs or coffees. That is the ideal. However this is not what I experienced at Café Loup. Sure there were some high notes, but by the time I got half way through my desert I was already feeling the itch to skedaddle. Nothing about what I had experienced left me feeling satisfied. I felt bloated and disappointed. By the food on both accounts, by the lack of havoc on the second account.

So what I had hoped would occur never came to fruition. After watching “Fuck You’d” man ring up my bill on the archaic cash register that I had thought was decorative, I introduced myself, offered my hand and an apology. The specifics were not mentioned, just that I was sorry for what I had said. I suppose I can now return without any concerns, but honestly I don’t think I care to.

ps: the title is referencing a gay couple that was obviously desperate to talk to me the entire time I was there. As I was getting to ready to leave they both very blatantly began staring at me, which I ignored in an equally blatant manner. After a considerable moment and an awkward silence between the two, one of the lovers said to the other, “My face is like, three times bigger than yours.” I tried hard not to laugh.

A Self Review of a Potentially Shitty Review of a Mediocre Piece

“Let’s open the floor to questions.”
“Is that so? Would it have been more interesting to you if I had murdered my sister?”
“It’d certainly make you more interesting.”
“… Who the hell do you think you are?”
“Thankfully not you.”


When you’re getting to know someone you should always keep in mind that there will inevitably be little surprises. It could be that you discover they’re impassioned pot smokers, or that they have a fetish for toenails, or maybe some other odd thing you can think of. Rest assured I don’t have a toenail fetish nor am I particularly interested in pot, for what that’s worth. Those would certainly be surprising revelations if applicable to me, but they’re not applicable. Nor is the fact that I have a subscription to The New Yorker all that surprising, at least not as surprising as the fact that I’m actually reading it.

So as I just said, there I was actually reading my New Yorker the other day and I happened to read David Sedaris’ long-winded piece called And Then There Were Five. If you haven’t read it, it’s all about his sister’s suicide and how it affected his family. It’s without a doubt a well written piece. Very heartfelt. A tour de force. Let’s all get together and “revel in ourselves because Sedaris is a genius and we understand him therefore we are also geniuses and everything he says has incredible meaning.” No one actually said that, I’m just making up what I imagine to be the unconscious mental processes that drives his readership.

I am quite clearly coming off as insensitive, but there is a point to this post, I promise. I feel that at some point the masses will ambush and flog me for my insolence. But that’s beside the point. Anyway, Sedaris’ piece is honestly a superbly written one, and through it we as readers are inclined to empathize and share. We are able to do this because of how he is able to invoke the familial spirit that, well, most of us are able to relate to. But this is also entirely beside the point.

So I read the piece; that ponderous (I really like this word), uninteresting, lackluster essay. I’m still not quite sure why I even bothered slogging through it, but I’d bet it had to do with the fact that I recognized David’s last name and that it was The New Yorker. I was also feeling particularly generous that night as I looked through my digital copy of the magazine. But throughout my reading, and especially at the end, one word came to mind: boring. A resounding boring.

Being who I am, as soon as I finished reading the piece I found myself launching into one of my inevitable daydreams where I was able to express exactly what I was feeling. It just so happened that this time it took the form of a reading by Sedaris where the audience was finally allowed to ask questions and I instinctively, prudently, yelled out “boooring”. While I’d never read anything else by Sedaris, I did know that he was some form of humorist or satirist, and I imagined that his reaction to my outburst would be, initially, to assume that the only kind of person who would yell out such an inanity would be a simple-minded peon who only craved stupid titillation from their media. However I am at a point now that I have a certain amount of faith in my writerly abilities, and to a certain extent my intellectual capacity. So I figured that my sardonic response, to Sedaris’ snide retort about changing the circumstances of his sister’s death (and I imagined this response would be in his character), would effectively convey that no, I was not an imbecile, and that my objections to his piece were founded on something other than just juvenile boredom. Then he realized that he wasn’t necessarily dealing with an amateur, became offended, and by the end of it I effectively turned into asshole.

Now I don’t want to make it seem as if I don’t respect the grief an individual experiences when faced by such an unfortunate event. I am in no way judging Sedaris for it, or his family, or his legions of fanatics. Suicide is a terrible matter. But writing style and a heavy topic alone don’t make for worthwhile, engaging reading, at least not to Andres’ brain at that particular moment. Because really that’s what the piece came down to. It was just an expose of writing, an opportunity for a writer to spill his guts on a national platform. My initial thought process was that, fine, this was a great piece, he opened himself up and allowed everyone to get a glimpse into his life. But to what end? Emotional solidarity with the readers? Okay, okay, there’s nothing wrong with that. But in The New Yorker? I would have expected something more rewarding, not just a tug on my heartstrings.

Therefore it was my hope, or rather it was my belief, that in this little fictionalized exchange I would have effectively conveyed the lack of worth of his piece. My thinking was that people would catch on to the subtlety of my little review and see that it was a genuine response based on the fact that the writing was devoid of life (horrible pun not intended, I think) and uninspired. It lacked any intellectual stimulation in my mind, therefore making it unworthy of New Yorker real estate. But I soon found out that this wasn’t the case, that not only was my review too reliant on my own mind filling in the gaps, but that I didn’t understand Sedaris’ role at The New Yorker.

It just so happened that I shared my review with a non-fiction writer in my MFA program, and she subsequently took me to task for it. She’s one of those self-professed Sedaris lovers, and while she conceded that Sedaris’ essay was indeed boring as all hell, she argued that it had value beyond its simple narrative because of the relationship Sedaris shares with his readers. She explained to me that what was beautiful about the piece was that it allowed her, an avid Sedaris reader, to get a small glimpse into his life, in effect bringing him further to life. She also enlightened me to the fact that Sedaris is a regular New Yorker contributor which explains the massive amount of space the magazine gave him for the essay. I felt kind of silly after she told me all of this.

But the thing is my initial review, that six sentence extravaganza, was an honest to god, knee-jerk reaction of mine. Perhaps I’m an idiot and a son of a bitch for even entertaining this entire thought exercise. But it happened, and I want to acknowledge it. Which then, finally, brings me to the question of whether criticism necessarily has to be objective. Is it not meant to be a critical, natural response to something you are exposed to? Even after being told why Sedaris’ piece matters I still think it is boring and without literary merit. I appreciate it, but I don’t value it.

In any case if you can’t appreciate any of this now, it’s ok. Genius is hard to come by.

That’s a joke.


For the Intermittent Writer


Short books about albums. Published by Bloomsbury.

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