|Posted on Thursday, August 29, 2002 - 12:00 pm: |
Really? :-) I've never been to Canada ... although I understand it has a lot of Chevaliers.
|Posted on Thursday, August 29, 2002 - 11:56 am: |
If you ever come to Montreal I'll be happy to make you drunk from his elixirs.
|Posted on Thursday, August 29, 2002 - 7:59 am: |
Shut me up, Moonman...please! ;-)
|Posted on Thursday, August 29, 2002 - 7:44 am: |
I say the asshole sell Lasalla out of clay pitchers...
I meet assholes like that several time. I sometime almost had to force some Moonman's in their mouth to shut them up. Words are useless against stupidity but the face they make when they finally taste something good is priceless.
|Posted on Wednesday, August 28, 2002 - 9:24 pm: |
Great story, Peter. Too bad BGS was a dick. Of course it merits a visit when we go to Barcelona (planned next year).
I look forward as always to hearing more stories...
|Posted on Wednesday, August 28, 2002 - 4:04 pm: |
Thanks for another wonderful story. Sounds like the place is worth a visit if one's in Barcelona, but not for the absinthe, per se... it's sad that the guy is so close-minded.
Another example of the 'don't mess with a good thing' rule that prevails in businesses until they run themselves into the ground. He's making money selling his mystery absinthe -- why bother to change, or consider new information, or even taste another product?
|Posted on Wednesday, August 28, 2002 - 2:01 pm: |
" ... then i leave these guys alone and come back and the glass is on fire up to here and they’ve spilled half of it and someone’s arm is on fire because they learned in the east that absinthe was set on fire and we still can’t correct them because they heard it first over there!"
Scott may be an asshole, but that "lament" of his had me rolling on the floor ... it almost redeems him!
|Posted on Wednesday, August 28, 2002 - 11:40 am: |
i did not get off on a good start when i asked him if the absenta he served was lasala...
BGS: ha! i make my own in a distillery here in barcelona! it's all we serve.
oh, i'm going to try to visit the DEVA distillery while i’m here…(i found out the next day they do not allow public visits, even though julian segarra welcomed us with open arms in the middle of the spainish countryside)
BGS: well, you can't get into mine!
most bars here serve lasala, and nothing else, i'm surprised they don't have a bigger choice.
BGS: they're NOT serving real absinthe! mine is the only REAL absinthe.do you know there are bars now that stock 10 different absinthes? but they're not like mine! how can they say they're serving absinthe when there are so many and they're all garbage?!
i know a distillery in france that makes real absinthe...
BGS: absinthe is illegal in france! they can't make absinthe in france! mine is the only one that is original, not like france, or eastern europe!
well, it is sold in england, where absinthe is legal...
BGS: absinthe is NOT legal in england! all the stuff they sell there is colored alcohol, none of it is absinthe! that is why they can sell it there!
would you like to try some from france?
BGS: NO! i have no interest whatsoever!
ok, so how did you get involved with this bar and why are you interested in absinthe?
BGS: why don't you talk to my partner, this guy (who was sitting right next to me)
he brushed me off and walked to the other end of the bar, busying himself with barkeep activities, but keeping an ear open...
so tell me about your bar… and what is your name?
José Lamuel Vallvé
could you write your name down in my book here? and what is the name of your partner? (i knew the american would never offer it on his own and seemed a little miffed when josé told me)
JLV: Scott Adam Jenkins…. this was my grandfather’s bar, since 1865
he wrote his grandfather’s name: Bartolome Vallvé Catelà
(he could not speak english very well, but struggled to respond as best as he could, it seemed quite assholish for BGS to pass off his partner to me, considering the language difficulties, but it was clear that being an asshole was BGS’s nature)
and this has always been and absinthe bar?
JLV: for a long time, also a meeting place for political dissidents and was shut down on several occasions…we still have signs displayed that warn that ‘meetings’ are prohibited in the bar, a ‘meeting’ being any group of more than 3 men.
Do you want to know the story about why people drink absinthe?
(it was going to be difficult, and BGS jumped back in…)
BGS: did you know that absinthe wasn’t invented in france?
that’s debatable…there are several versions of where…(i was cut off)
BGS: it was invented in switzerland, and then became illegal there, it’s written right into their constitution, that absinthe is illegal to drink, and they had to then bring it over to france to make it legally…
according to what i’ve read, and i am working on a book with …(i was cut off again)
BGS: look, i’ve read EVERY book on absinthe! i’ve even tried to sell my absinthe but the spanish government says that it cannot leave the country…i’ve got letters from government agencies from all over that says my absinthe cannot be sold because it contains the ingredients that make it a narcotic! i’ve got letters from the FDA…
well (i squeezed in) forget about the FDA and the USA, no absinthe is legal there…would you be interested in selling it if it were legal outside spain?
BGS: it doesn’t matter, it’s not and i can’t…
hey, i’m on your side, i’m appreciate that you serve it the right way and try to explain it to others…
BGS: well, when americans come to europe, they are told to start in the east and work west…so when they get here, they have already seen absinthe drunk in shots, or set on fire…we go through the whole process of showing them how to make their drink, placing the sugar cubes on the fork (we used to use spoons but they would get stolen or bent up) and do you know how hard it is to get sugar cubes in spain? i have to bring them in and stock them myself! and then i leave these guys alone and come back and the glass is on fire up to here and they’ve spilled half of it and someone’s arm is on fire because they learned in the east that absinthe was set on fire and we still can’t correct them because they heard it first over there!
i told him ian’s patented response about why absinthe was never set on fire in france:
can you image that paris would still be standing if, during the 19th century, every night, thousands of drunken frenchmen were lighting their absinthe on fire?
josé translated this into spanish to the man next to him, and they both laughed…
BGS: you know they just want to drink so quickly now, they can’t sip their absinthe, they want to do it in shots! they ‘internet’ their drinks! they want it quick and right now! i keep telling the boys, ‘it’s like sex, you need to take it slow’, but they just want to rush through it!
our waiter appeared to be gay, which was not a surprise, we knew scott was gay the minute he opened his mouth, and now it became obvious to us that every man in the bar was gay…my wife looked a bit stressed, but hung on…
how long have you been involved with this bar?
BGS: 10 years…i actually had to stop a lot of the old customers from coming in, as they would spend the whole night here and hardly order anything…
so have you ever tried an original, vintage absinthe?
BGS: yeah! mine!
he laughed as i tried to keep from saying anything, (how can you respond to that?)
yours is distilled, like the originals?
he looked at me, smiling without saying anything, like telling me this would be more than i could handle or his most guarded secret … (virtually ALL absentas in spain are mixed oils in alcohol and legally, no distillery could make a custom absinthe for a bar and not bottle and label it; as deathly potent, narcotic and illegal BGS’s absenta might be, the most illegal thing he was doing was appearing to serve it from untaxed containers )
and the percentage of alcohol?
BGS: 55% the highest you can go.
? and you don’t have any desire to market it?
(i got the impression that maybe he thought i was interested marketing in his product)
BGS: look, this is a hobby now… i come in to work from 10-3 and i like it. a lot of people have tried to get me to market it, by changing the labelling or some other way…
(i had still not seen a bottle)
BGS: but now that i know i cannot legally sell it outside my bar, there is no point…
and you have no desire to try the french absinthe?
BGS: i usually never turn down a drink, but i really don’t have any interest.
i turned to josé and asked him to tell me the story of why people drink absinthe.
(this is a cleaned up version, created from our mutual attempt to understand each other)
JLV: when artists cannot create, when they have a block, they need to have some sort of inspiration and they look for a muse or fairy to help them…there are the four elements which we all are a part of: fire, earth, water, air… the absinthe plant comes from the earth, and the fairy sleeps in the bottle…to wake up the fairy, she must be coaxed with something sweet, that is why the sugar is put into the absinthe, with another element, water, and the sweetness wakes up the fairy to inspire the artist…
(of course i didn’t want to get into a discussion that the element ‘fire’ might have also been inserted into this charming story, but it was the most pleasant discourse i had had that evening, and it took a lot of effort for him to tell it, with his partner ready to interrupt at any moment)
i thanked him for his story and for taking time to talk to me.
i looked at scott, seeing my wife was ready to go (but she had been ready along time before)
thanks, scott, i shouted, as he was toward the end of the bar, business was picking up, and he was refilling glasses of absenta out of a clay pitcher …
i’ll make sure you are in the book…maybe i’ll come back before i go and bring my sample and you might want to taste it?
as we walked down the street, my wife looked at me and asked why i would want to come back, why i would want to offer a taste of my absinthe that, even if he liked it, he would never, could never, say anything good about it…
the story isn’t finished,i explained, maybe it’s masochistic, but i’m curious to see what his reaction would be…
(i’m still not even certain if he had ever tasted another absinthe, but have to give him credit for being passionate about at least, his, whatever it might be, and being utterly convinced of his own unquestionable knowledge of the subject, as amusingly flawed and not subject to correction as it was )
well, i’m not coming with you, i don’t think they liked me being there, maybe you’ll do better on your own, but you’re wasting your time and he was an asshole…
she couldn’t be talked into going back, over our dinner the next night, though i didn’t push it very hard…i didn’t, and probably won’t ever, go back…
|Posted on Wednesday, August 28, 2002 - 6:58 am: |
Your wife is a patient woman, Petermarc ... I doubt that my girlfriend would have lasted a minute there ;-)
|Posted on Wednesday, August 28, 2002 - 5:56 am: |
If they only serve one brand, can we really call it an absinthe bar ?
|Posted on Tuesday, August 27, 2002 - 5:52 pm: |
Marsella Sant Pau 65
Mirrors anciens et tables en marbes ornent cet éstablissement ouvert depuis 1820.
-le guide vert barcelone et la catalogne (michelin-france)
benoît noël had asked me to interview the owner of this bar in barcelona (he's american) for a soon to be published english version of his handbook on absinthe...
my wife and i walked in around 10:30pm on a wednesday night...it hit me when passed through the door...absinthe! well, absenta...like someone had broken a bottle of lasala, the smell of fennel and lemon hit me, unmistakably spanish in origin...but a good sign, no less, reminding me of what used to be said about 'l'heure verte' on the streets of paris; one could smell absinthe everywhere...i tried to identify where the smell was coming from as i surveyed the bar-big, rather open, with small round marble tables (most of them cracked in two, but still held together by the metal strips around them)with a very small bar area with mirrors everywhere, but the small panel kind, creating the walls, including some with old(very old) advertisements...age-encrusted bottles of all sorts, full and not, lined shelves around the entire bar area... an extremely limited choice of alcohol-and-NO bottles of absenta to be seen! looking behind the bar again, i saw the cause, under the spartan shelves of usable booze...around 30 short-stemmed water glasses, half-filled with a clear yellow liquid and a spoon in each one, crowded together in two or three rows...
we chose a seat in the very back, against the wall (there were a few guys at the bar and one couple seated, with about 20 free tables to choose from, quite empty) the waiter, in jeans and a red t-shirt came up to us to take our order...bailey's for my wife, and i asked what brands of absinthe they had...the waiter could not speak english or french, but made some sort of comment about there only being one choice, so i just ordered absenta...when my glass arrived, it was presented, not with a spoon, but a small fork, one wrapped sugar cube and a small plastic bottle of water...i pulled out my own spoon, and the waiter smiled and left...smell...lasala, it is the most common brand in barcelona, if not northern spain, found in every bar i have found that serves absenta...the taste neat, lasala, maybe a little thicker, maybe...but, as lasala was the first absinthe i ever tasted, the flavor is etched in my mind, for good or bad...(i have retasted from my two-year old bottle as i write this, and find it just slightly thinner in taste and texture, but once one has had a classic spanish absenta, one doesn't forget, nor make comparisons to swiss or french or even czech)
the ambience was not to my wife's liking (well, almost no bar is) and we (well, my wife chugged) hurried through our drinks...i approached the bar where the obviously american owner presided...big, stocky, with a blue t-shirt and baseball cap, he looked like a truck driver from the northwest, more believable saddled up to an order of rooty-tooty fresh and fruity at denny's as opposed to hosting an absenta bar in barcelona...he spoke in spanish to the men around him, but i was sure he spoke english...i asked him if he was the owner and explained that i was in the process of translating a french book about absinthe into english and wanted to interview him about why he got involved with this bar,absinthe, etc... etc... etc...