I believe the title of this blog is appropriate because you are asking yourself, ‘who is this jerk writing this blog’? The answer is a regular guy who likes to cook, listen to music, and watch and discuss great television. For this blog entry, we are going to pair Mad Men with Leon Bridges’ Coming Home and make an early 1960’s New York style supper club dinner.
The photo featured above is from Mad Men season 3 episode 11. The episode it titled, ‘The Gypsy and The Hobo’. In this episode, Betty finally confronts Don about his past. This confrontation happens on Beggar’s Night, the one night a year when everyone is in disguise. There is no subtlety about this reveal happening on this particular night.
After a long conversation, the Drapers take their children trick or treating. As the Drapers arrive on their neighbor Carlton’s porch, Carlton asks the children, ‘And who are you supposed to be?’ The episode ends after this scene, which is appropriate because after all…who is Don supposed to be?
I once had a friend aptly describe Mad Men as ‘the closest thing to a novel that has ever been on television’. The characters are complex, the show takes place in a different era, every detail is important, and the plot is a slow burn with big pay offs. The creator of the show, Matt Weiner, was a writer and executive producer for The Sopranos, meaning he worked closely with The Soprano’s creator and show runner David Chase. Perhaps that is why Mad Men is so good – it seems like a spiritual cousin to The Sopranos and deals with many of the same themes and issues.
For those not familiar with the show, here is my synopsis: Don Draper is the protagonist and an advertising superstar who works for the Madison Avenue firm Sterling Cooper. He is a hard drinking womanizer with a mysterious past and a penchant for Canadian Club, brunettes, and self destruction. As the show progresses, more of Don’s past is revealed. The revealing is a vehicle for explaining his poor life choices and to make the viewer more sympathetic towards Don’s philandering, drinking, and absentee parenting. This works more often than not, and as a result it is difficult, but not impossible, to root against Don
Don works with Peggy Olson and is her mentor. Peggy comes from a Irish Catholic, blue collar Brooklyn family and claws her way up the corporate ladder of the advertising world. Along with Joan Halloway – office manager of the constantly changing Sterling Cooper -Peggy symbolizes the Women’s Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. These two women are the characters I found myself rooting for the most. Like all other characters on the show, Joan and Peggy had their flaws, but had to work twice as hard as their male counterparts, often only to receive half the recognition.
A character who becomes intertwined with Peggy and is a constant thorn in Joan’s side is Pete Campbell. Pete is a tried and true, blue blooded New Yorker. He is the son of privilege, but takes pride in his work and often keeps the Sterling Cooper afloat through his business acumen and hard work. Pete, however, has a dark side and an ambiguous morality – both of which are often on display. This ambiguity can, at times, be an asset to Pete in his daily workplace battles.
The final main character is my favorite character in the show and in my top five of favorite television characters all time: Roger H. Sterling, Jr. Roger inherited the business from his father and has only one job – keeping the people at Lucky Strike happy. Roger is also a blue blooded man child of privilege, a proud veteran of the second World War, and doting and thoughtful father. Of all of the characters on the show, Roger is the most witty and charming, but also the most hedonistic. It seems no vice too illicit, too married, or too mind altering for Roger’s indulgence.
Weiner takes the viewer on a tour of New York City and (towards the end of the show) Los Angeles in the 1960’s. Over the course of the series, many social topics and historic events (The Cuban Missile Crisis, the war in Vietnam, and Race Riots) are discussed and portrayed. Adding to the authenticity of the series is the fact that the assassinations of Martin Luther King, John Kennedy, and Robert Kennedy each get their own episode.
Mad Men is definitely a favorite of mine. In fact, I think it marks the true beginning of television’s second Golden Age – at least when it comes to basic cable or streaming services. The true pioneers of the second Golden Age were the HBO shows The Larry Sanders Show and The Sopranos, but that is a topic for another day. If you haven’t checked out Mad Men, do yourself a favor and make that a priority. If you already are familiar, do yourself a favor and re-watch ‘The Gypsy and The Hobo’.
The album I have paired with Mad Men is Leon Bridges’ 2015 release Coming Home. I drank the Manhattan in front of the LP. In fact, in true Don and Roger style, I had a few drinks that evening. It is also worth noting that I bought this album at Records Per Minute. If you stop in, Steve will be behind the counter and will be happy to answer any of your questions.
This album is a natural fit for this menu. If you close your eyes and listen, you can confuse Leon Bridges and Sam Cooke – well, at least as much as any mortal human could ever be confused with Sam Cooke. This album could have been playing in the background of any Mad Men episode, and the viewer wouldn’t have blinked an ear. If Leon Bridges was 50 years older, it is easy to imagine this album being recorded in Detroit.
Coming Home seamlessly blends Gospel, R&B, Soul, and Blues into an album that can be listened to many times over. ‘River’ and ‘Lisa Sawyer’ are straight out of the southern Gospel playbook. If you told me these songs were written by a Winans or Houston family member, I would have easily believed you.
‘Better Man’, ‘Smooth Sailin’, and ‘Flowers’ will put you on the dance floor, if you are jonesing for a slow jam, ‘Pull Away’ will give you your fix, and ‘Twistin’ and Groovin’ is a tutorial in traditional 12 bar blues. This album has something for everyone – and when I say everyone, I mean EVERYONE.
To close out the Leon Bridges topic and in the spirit of full disclosure, Megan and I picked ‘Coming Home’ for our first dance at our wedding. Here is a photo of Megan and I after dancing to ‘Coming Home’:
I am sweaty and drinking a glass of bourbon and she is calm, cool, collected, and captivating. I am glad we picked Leon Bridges, it was a good fit for us. We were also lucky enough to have this song covered by The Heidi Burson Band. Located out of Nashville, Heidi and her band tour nationally. If you are lucky enough for them to play your town, do yourself a favor and go see them live.
Alright, now it is time to make dinner. For the appetizer, we are going to make Coquilles St. Jacque. I was unfamiliar with this dish until I tried it at Windward Passage in Upper Arlington, OH. Windward Passage also fits into this entry because nothing has changed there is 50 years – and I mean that in a good way. There is an obvious nautical theme and the restaurant is dimly lit with wood paneling. In real life and at real ages, Sally Draper would be to young to be a regular here, but it would not be difficult to imagine an 83 year old Pete Campbell at the bar enjoying a drink.
This dish is mashed potatoes topped with scallops and covered in cheese, or at least my version is. I paired this with a dirty vodka martini. I liked the combination and felt sophisticated and it was easy to make. Here are the recipes:
Coquilles St. Jacque
- Scallops from Franks Fish and Seafood Market,
- 2% Milk
- Aged Sharp Cheddar from Thurn’s Specialty Meats
- Ca’donini Pinot Grigio from Gentiles Wine Seller in Grandview, OH. Full disclosure, I worked at Gentiles in my mid 20s and learned about wine from the legendary Gentile family. Rest in Peace, Roger Junior and Roger Senior. You both are missed.
What to do:
- Make your mashed potatoes – milk, butter, potatoes and keep them warm on the stove top.
- Put two table spoons of garlic and butter in a pan on the stove top. When they melt add half a cup of Pinot Grigio and the juice of one lemon. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 5 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to medium and sear the scallops on each side. Reduce heat to low, cover the pan and cook through. 5 minutes per side should do.
- Put mashed potatoes in a ramekin, put the scallops on top of the potatoes, top with cheddar cheese and broil for three minutes.
The finished product should look like this:
We are going to keep everything simple in this blog, including the drinks. Why? Because you want your bartender to look like this:
And NOT like this:
If your bartender/mixologist does look like this, I am sure he is a wonderful person and makes fine drinks, but is just not the right fit for this specific blog. We will not be adding Elderflower to any of our drinks, but rest assured we will be enjoying some delicious craft beers.
Roger Sterling Dirty Vodka Martini – In honor of Roger Sterling
- Sterling Vodka – that is right, it is made by Tanqueray. Unlike Roger, it is inexpensive and mixes well with anything.
- Dry Vermouth
- Spanish Olives
What to do:
- Put Martini glass in the freezer for 30 minutes before you make the drink.
- Put ice in a cocktail shaker.
- Put 3 parts vodka and one part vermouth in the cocktail shaker
- Shake. Pour. Add Olives.
Your finished product should look like this:
Now we move onto the main course:
Caprese Salad with Corn and Asparagus
- 1 cup Frozen Sweet Corn
- 1 cup Asparagus
- 10 ounces Mozzarella Cheese
- 10 ounces Cherry Tomatoes
- Balsamic Vinaigrette to taste – 1/2 cup or so
What to do:
- Boil sweet corn and asparagus for three minutes. Immediately transfer to ice bath. Let chill for 20 minutes.
- While vegetables are chilling, cut mozzarella into cubes and cut tomatoes in half.
- Combine all vegetables and cheese into mixing bowl.
- Add Balsamic Vinaigrette to taste.
- Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.
Your finished product should look like this:
Grilled New York Strip Steak
- Strip Steak from your local butcher shop. I went to my local butcher shop (which shall remain nameless) and the steaks did not look good, so I went to Giant Eagle on Cemetery Road. The people who work there are friendly and the steaks looked much better than at the previous stop. I try to support local as much as possible, but Giant Eagle was a fine replacement.
- Olive Oil
What to do:
- Let the meat sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Warm up and clean your grill grates. There is nothing worse than putting cold meat on dirty grates. If you do this, I won’t condemn you to hell, but I would recommend purgatory.
- Lightly brush your steak with Olive Oil and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Throw your room temperature steak onto your preheated 350 degree,clean grates.
- Grill for about 8 minutes per side – 4 minutes with the lid up and 4 with the lid down on each side. Medium Rare is the only way to go and the only acceptable answer.
I failed to get a photo from a different angle, but you can see the char marks on the steak. Always try to aim for that by flipping as little as possible. I also believe in letting a good piece of steak speak for itself and not adding much to the process. Some people like to add different marinades, but I subscribe to the salt, pepper, and olive oil doctrine.
At this point I partook in a Pinot Noir from Oregon to pair with dinner. Pinots from Oregon are currently all the rage, pair nicely with anything, and are great on a warm summer night. If you have time, pour your bottle into a decanter for 20 minutes or so before drinking – it can make a big difference. You wont go to purgatory if you don’t though, so it is win-win.
Alright! Here we are – dinner is over and it is time to unwind and watch some Mad Men. In honor of Don Draper and Windward Passage, we are going to make a Manhattan.
Mad Manhattan – In honor of Don and all of the other high functioning alcoholics in the Sterling Cooper office.
- Dry Vermouth
- Orange Peel
What to do:
- Put ice in a cocktail shaker.
- Put 3 parts bourbon and one part vermouth in the cocktail shaker.
- Shake. Pour. Add orange peel and cherries. Or don’t. Either way is acceptable. I am not here to judge. I hope we can still be friends.
You have already seen one version of this drink. Recently I made the same drink, but in a high ball glass. It is best to enjoy this drink in front of a photo of family and friends,
I think that should about do it for this entry. I hope you have enjoyed this 1960’s themed menu. At the end of my entries, I am going to have a section dedicated to random thoughts about the menu. Thanks for reading!
ADDITIONS AND SUBSTITUTIONS
- I saw Leon Bridges at the LC for an indoor show in October of 2015. The man can dance and is dressed to the nines. He puts on a great live show. My only complaint is that he only had about 75 minutes of live material. Definitely looking forward to seeing him again in the future.
- In February, 2016 Columbia released a deluxe version of Coming Home. This version has five more songs, bringing the total to fifteen. Even with the five extra songs, Coming Home still clocks in at under 45 minutes. You can put the album on repeat and burn through it multiple times without complaint.
- Of all of Don’s mistresses, I think Suzanne Farrell was my favorite. Sure, it is screwed to have an affair with your daughter’s teacher, but Don needed nurturing and she was a nurturer.
- Harry Crane had no redeemable qualities.
- Stan Rizzo has only redeemable qualities.
- ‘Just when he got it in the door’ may be my favorite Roger line of all time. Stay away from riding lawnmowers.
- To the best of my recollection, the Yankees were not mentioned, which is surprising considering what a powerhouse the Yankees were at the time. British implant Lane Pryce had a Mets pennant in his office – which I think represented him. Like the Mets, he was the new kid in town and also like the Mets, he had to compete with Yankees.