Friday, November 9, 2018

"Come thirsty, leave happy"

Lansdale craft distiller Boardroom Spirits, has officially unveiled their newly expanded distillery and tasting room at 575 W. Third St.

A project that was apparently in the works ever since Boardroom Spirits launched in 2016, the tasting room has moved to a part of the building that had previously been used for storage, making the bar space at least four times bigger than it was. It can hold 80 people.
The addition of 2,400 square feet also means expanded distilling operations. A new 528-gallon still by Hagyo Distilling in Hungary, pictured below, is expected to quadruple production.

The tasting room and bar includes two bathrooms, a dedicated space for chefs and caterers, shuffleboard, a large bar that acts as the focal point for gatherings and an automated bottling line. 
Sure to be a hit at the new Boardroom Spirits tasting room is this tabletop hand-shuffleboard game.

Phase two expansion plans include an update to the exterior fa├žade and landscaping, and an adjacent 1,000-square-foot warehouse with a capacity to increase to 4,000 square feet. 

The tasting room’s cocktail menu has also been revamped thanks to new tasting room manager James Cleland. New cocktails include the Knee Buckler, a mix of Northbound rye whiskey (the Northbound name is a reference to the restaurant in Souderton), Boardroom's Fresh ginger infused vodka, lime juice (Boardroom insists on squeezing it fresh) and honey; Executive Punch, a blend of Boardroom's recently-released Northbound spiced rum, red wine simple syrup and aromatic bitters; and the Made in the USA Mai Tai, featuring Boardroom rum, the Northbound spiced rum, Boardroom's 80-proof triple sec (the reason why this simple-but-effective variation on the mai tai will sneak up on you), lime juice and house made orgeat (a syrup made from blanched almonds). 
There's no denying the smooth difference local, fresh and premium liquors -- with no artificial flavors, food coloring, preservatives or sweeteners -- makes in mixing a superior tasting cocktail.  Another recently-released spirit from Boardroom is nocino, a black walnut liqueur.
Celebrity chef, fitness authority and author Robert Irvine was so impressed that he invested in Boardroom and became a co-owner in 2017.

The distillery will continue to host Foodie Weekends, themed by cuisine (ramen night) or dish (mac n cheese slider trios), with local catering partner Fry’s Catering, and bi-weekly Macaroon and Martini cocktail workshops in partnership with local catering collaborator Mixie Chics. 

And yes, Boardroom Spirits liquors can be purchased at Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores throughout Pennsylvania, as well as in the new tasting room, which is open 4 to 9 p.m. Thursdays, 4 to 10 p.m. Fridays, 2 to 10 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays.

Left to right: Boardroom co-owners Vlad and Marat Mamedov and Zsuzsa Palotas, and tasting room manager James Cleland.

Monday, March 12, 2018

What is a "Greatest Hit" anyway?

Steve Winwood's sold out "Greatest Hits" tour stop at the Tower Theater in Upper Darby was not so much this

as it was this:

What I'm saying is that, with the exception of the No. 1s "Roll With It" and "Higher Love," the 69-year-old blue-eyed soul singer/keyboardist/guitarist ignored the 1980s, the period of the bulk of his greatest hits.
The first inkling this might happen came as Winwood  took a seat behind a Hammond organ. That keyboard's distinct and classic sound would probably rule out the more synthesized sounds of "Valerie," "While You See a Chance" and "The Finer Things." It should be mentioned that the gifted multi-instrumentalist in Winwood's rock-solid band freed "Higher Love" from its '80s sonic prison by playing the song's chirpy synth hook on saxophone.

Sure I absolutely expected to hear Spencer Davis Group, Traffic and Blind Faith songs -- the 1970 Traffic song "Empty Pages" still sounds quite fresh -- but was not expecting something branded as "Greatest Hits" to so grossly under-represent Winwood's most commercially successful decade.
"Did Steve Winwood just not have a good time in the '80s?," I wondered.     
Then I read something he said to Digital First Media's Gary Graff: "I remember, at some point in the '90s, there were people who were following me for my work in the '80s who weren't familiar with either Traffic or Spencer Davis, and didn't know that I was the same person that sang 'Gimme Some Lovin'' or the same person that sang 'Can't Find My Way Home' (both big-time crowd-pleasers at the Tower). I do specifically remember one person coming up to me after a show to say: 'I loved the show, but why did you finish with a cover of a Blues Brothers song?'
So I have these different sort of levels and phases I've gone through, and one phase isn't always familiar with the other phases."
 From what I could tell, Winwood's Philly faithful skewed close to Winwood's age, and therefore found "Dear Mr. Fantasy" and "Low Spark of High Heeled Boys" to be satisfying enough. The audience was also appreciative of the opening set by Winwood's daughter, Lilly (who appears in my "Roll With It" video above), who has a storytelling singer/songwriter thing going that would fit in very well at the Philadelphia Folk Festival.
Later I discovered Winwood recently released a "Greatest Hits Live" album, culled from the tour, that features "Back in the High Life Again," "Arc of a Diver" and "Freedom Overspill" -- songs I really wish I could have heard.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

When you really want to like a smokey whiskey, but just can't

It's a better than average Friday when a free whiskey sample crosses your desk.
"This is Stolen?" What's that about? And is that a 45 rpm record jacket?
Taking inspiration from a quote from Picasso that "great artists steal," Stolen is the name of a new-to-the-U.S., 46% alcohol by volume, aged 11 years artisanal spirit that originated in New Zealand. The gimmick is using charred whiskey barrel staves, plus a secondary barrel-finishing process -- where what the makers refer to as "the juice" is continually analyzed for taste and nosed for aroma till it meets the boldness test.
"Drink it like it's stolen," they seductively say.
Smokey whiskey is quite manly, and I feel like I should've sipped it while smoking a cigar. But just like with Jim Beam Black, I have a hard time getting into it because the smoke flavor is overkill. but that's nothing that ginger ale can't fix. Does that make me a wuss, or a whiskey snob? I mean I do know the difference between whiskey with an "E" and whisky without it.
Give me Evan Williams' Honey or Cherry, or Jim Beam Apple on the rocks any day!
What I wish Stolen would've sent me is a link to cocktail recipes so I knew what the heck to do with it. I took the liberty of supplying it to you here. 
They also have a smoked rum and something called "Overproof" rum.
Since Talk About the Passion is mostly a music blog, I need to mention what was in the 45 rpm jacket in the package, besides cards introducing me to Stolen Whiskey. No, there was no record.

 Rapper Phranchyze and alt country singer Nikki Lane and rocker Jonathan Tyler (did they spell his name wrong on this photo?) are into Stolen.

However, I think Phranchyze prefers Hennessey and Horchata. He has a song about it.


Thursday, January 19, 2017

Whoa, am I actually a better DJ than Moby?

For the last year, I've come to rely on my Spotify at work more than I ever thought I'd have to.
CNN, a staple in our newsroom, is slowly discovering the dire consequences of prioritizing entertainment value over journalism by not holding Trump's feet to the fire. Cannot stand all the idiotic talking heads trying to brainwash us that a repulsive bullying fascist is normal. So to drown out that nonsense, I've created this playlist that borrows heavily from 30 Days, 30 Songs (which it looks like is morphing into 1,000 Days, 1,000 Songs), and a little from Moby's imagined playlist if he were to DJ the inauguration.
 WARNING: Some of my playlist songs contain rather strong language. But too bad. These are my not-so-subtle thoughts on Dumb Donald, and it keeps me from losing my mind by reminding me I am not alone.
What's disappointing is Moby's Spotify leans too much on Vietnam War era protest songs. Sure, you can nitpick me for choosing W-era songs like "Mr. President" by Doylestown native Pink & The Indigo Girls, folk songs from the World War II era (when Americans shot Nazis instead of electing them), an impeachment-urging song from the Nixon years and an '80s new wave throwback by Heaven 17 that quaintly references President Ronald Reagan (which the British group pronounces "Ree-gan"). But don't my songs fit the nightmare we're in a little better than John Lennon's "Imagine?"
I look forward, albeit reluctantly, to adding more tunes as they come out. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

A look back: 2016 Philadelphia Folk Fest

Shoutout to IRadioPhilly for rebroadcasting Folk Fest Nov. 23-27! It gives me an excuse to offer my own unique flashback from this year's Fest.
This one will stand out in my memory because I was granted access to the areas that only performers, Folk Fest stage/technical crew, and other VVIPs are allowed -- making for a perspective of Folk Fest I never imagined possible.

Finally tracking down Philly rising talent Hurricane Hoss after her "first big rodeo" on the Main Stage, she was still in costume, but transitioning back to her real-world self, Sarah Larsen. She knew that my day had been more challenging than it ever should have been. Maybe that's why she was able to talk me past security.

She said that Hurricane Hoss represents "all the best parts of myself." It was after our interview for my Friday coverage for Digital First Media Philly, when she introduced me to Saturday evening Main Stage performer Si Kahn, who instantly welcomed me by bringing me an urgently-needed plate of really delicious food. Kahn justified it by coining a phrase he attributed to Thomas Jefferson about it being important to freedom of the press by feeding them. I haven't been able to verify that, but THIS GUY GETS IT!
Kahn is a fascinating cat, who really deserved a story unto himself. But a blog post will have to do. The son of a rabbi, he grew up in State College, moved to the south to be an activist for the civil rights movement (Kahn informed me that "We Shall Overcome" actually has 12 verses), and also founded the Grassroots Leadership organization. Among the other causes close to his heart is Musicians United to Protect Bristol Bay. Kahn's been recording since 1974, he knew Pete Seeger, has written four books, has a degree from Harvard, plus a Ph.D!! If I didn't have a deadline to meet at the time, I would've hung out and picked this guy's brain through the night. But you'll have to settle for this playlist instead.

When I asked him about the state of folk music, he said, "It's fabulous," and appropriated the quote by Mark Twain that the reports of the death of folk music "have been greatly exaggerated."
But wait, there's more! Who should I encounter on my way out, but the Where's Waldo of the festival circuit -- Souderton native, singer/songwriter and renowned Forrest Gump impersonator Paul Dengler, who has a new Instagram.

Monday, November 7, 2016

A chick-lit standout of 2016

As soon as I cracked open "Finding Tambri" by Georgia Author of the Year finalist Sherry Meeks, I knew this was a book for my wife, who is a bathtub reader. That means you don't lend her any reading material that you don't want wrinkled from water exposure.
Yes, I know I passed the buck. Don't judge me.
Tambri is a bitter, lost soul after her young son dies, leading to her marriage to her high school sweetheart falling apart. However, it looks like she could be on the cusp of finding love again.
The author uses a non-traditional narrative of short stories from different character perspectives, which my wife said made "Finding Tambri" hard to follow because of the way it jumps around.
"It's about the trials and tribulations of marriage and relationships. She's an excellent writer and brings you close to the characters," my wife says.
The 211-page "Finding Tambri" is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble and you can find more at

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Beatles' unique connection to Philly

It was terrific meeting John Lennon's half-sister, Julia Baird, this year when she came to Sellersville Theater with The Mersey Beatles. One thing she said that sticks with me, because of how mind-blowing it is, is that there are 5,800 Beatles tribute bands worldwide. You can't say the same thing about the Backstreet Boys!
Julia is a tiny lady. At right is my good friend, Rick White.

 Hey, wot's that Mersey Beatle doing? Messing with my hair?

A little before that encounter, I paid a visit to Plymouth Meeting dermatologist Steve Binnick. In his clinical room, I was surprised to see a photo of the genuine Beatles that looked something like this.
Dr. Binnick explained that his dad, Bernie, was a co-owner of Philadelphia's Swan Records, the label of Freddy Cannon, Danny and the Juniors, the early records of The Three Degrees, and Link Wray in the pre-"Rumble" days. Swan also was the first American record company to release The Beatles' No. 1 "She Loves You." 
Other small American labels that put out Beatles singles, before Capitol Records assumed control of their American releases, included Vee Jay and Tollie. They're highly collectible.

Dr. Binnick has retired, and sadly, that's likely the last chance I'll see that picture.