Friday, August 18, 2017

Butterfly Feelings

Now for something pleasant.  And painful.  From the international man of mystery and mayhem, the Dutch devil of devious delights – that’s right, Wil Strijbos, the brilliant puzzle designer from the Netherlands – comes more mischievous merriment.  Last summer I wrote about one of my favorite puzzle boxes, the long awaited PachinkoBox from Strijbos.  That box is immensely clever, satisfying and fun to solve.  But the year prior to that I fumbled through his Butterfly Box (aka “Pleasure and Pain” Box).  I say that I fumbled, not to appear self effacing, but to admit that I fell right into his trap.  The one he set on purpose for everyone who attempts to solve this box.  I don’t want to explain exactly what happened (some of you will know quite well anyway) as this may give quite a bit away about the solution.  That would be a shame, as it would violate Wil’s request not to give any hints or solutions to his puzzles, especially the ones like the Butterfly Box.  It would also be a shame since I now want anyone else who tries this puzzle to suffer like I did.  Wil should name his next puzzle box “Schadenfreude”.  I suppose enough time has passed that I can now happily write about this wonderful puzzle.

Butterfly Box by Wil Strijbos

Most of what you need to know about this puzzle “box” (technically a box since it has space inside, although that is not the main goal) is apparent from examining it.  A large metal block with an anodized green front plate is adorned with a very large, very heavy solid brass padlock affixed to a bolt on top.  A cuff which is locked in place is also present, with the word “LOCK” inscribed, but it is upside down.  Your task is to unlock the padlock, right the cuff, and lock up everything with the puzzle back to the starting position.  On the back of the metal block “box” there is an etching which to me looks like a butterfly – perhaps the reason behind the name.  But what of the puzzle’s nickname – the "Pleasure and Pain" box?  The whole affair is certainly a pleasure to look at and handle, being extremely well built and unusual in appearance.  Fiddling about with it produces some expected and some unexpected results, and you may very well find the means to unlock the padlock.  Quite pleasurable.  Nevermind the pleasant looking fellow who may strangely appear out of nowhere and send an odd pleasantry.  A little additional dexterity and maneuvering and perhaps you will even have reset it all back to the start as instructed.  Pleasure all around.  Perhaps a month might even go by, while you politely wonder what all the fuss was about.  But at some point, doubt will creep in, prompted by the paranoia induced by other puzzlers in pain.  Or even by Wil Strijbos himself, wondering whether congratulations are truly in order.  That will be the moment when you revisit the puzzle, and realize you are a fool.  Or at least, Wil’s fool.  That was no pleasantry from the mysterious pleasant fellow – it was a plaintiff cry!  A painful process indeed ensues, and it will literally be many weeks before you can finally say you have succeeded in mastering this masterpiece.  And that’s all I’ll say, so that you, too may suffer the pleasures someday.

Simple pleasures await inside this box.  So why do I have butterflies in my stomach?

To toast this marvelous, menacing box, I’ve devised a tasty tipple sure to catch your fancy.  Since Wil “caught” me in his trap I raise my glass to him with the “Butterfly Catcher” cocktail.  Created by Adele Stratton of San Diego’s fabulous secret bar, Noble Experiment, the “Fly Catcher” is a perfect summer drink which highlights the bright sweet flavor of watermelon and balances it with smoky mezcal and bitter Campari, all sweetened with a touch of almond syrup.  The drink is absolutely delicious.  I infused the mezcal in mine with dried Butterfly Pea plant leaves, for a number of reasons.  First of all, this allowed me to call it the Butterfly Catcher, which was useful for obvious reasons.  Next, Butterfly plant leaves lend a brilliant blue or indigo color to things, which makes the drink look lovely.  If you mix the drink without the acid component (such as the lime juice in this drink), then add it slowly later, you can watch the drink change colors from bright blue to purple, which is a nice cocktail magic trick.  Additionally, the Butterfly Pea plant has been used in ancient Asian medicine for its reported antistress, antianxiety, antidepressant, tranquilizing and sedative properties – which may be very helpful after trying to solve this puzzle.  Finally, the Butterfly Pea plant is from a particular plant genus which I suspect Wil Strijbos would enjoy.  Those of you who know your taxonomy will understand.  Wishing you all the pleasures, with no pain, that life has to offer – cheers!

Butterfly Catcher adapted from Adele Stratton

Butterfly Catcher – adapted from Adele Stratton

1 ½ oz mezcal infused with Butterfly Pea leaf
1 ½ oz watermelon juice
¾ oz fresh lime juice
¾ oz Campari
½ oz orgeat
Pinch of salt

Shake ingredients together with ice and strain into a favorite glass filled with crushed ice.  Don’t be fooled – this will ease your pain.

This pair will give you butterflies

For more from Wil Strijbos:

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Boxes and Books

“We live for books.” – Umberto Eco

Happy National Book Lover’s Day, everyone.  Technically this event is celebrated on August 9th each year, but I’m a slow reader.  I’d be remiss to miss this lovely holiday, as reading and the love of books is so important to the Boxes and Booze household.  There are many great puzzle boxes which are book themed, and so many storied drinks throughout literature, that it’s easy to provide a pairing.  Check out some past offerings for Book Lover’s and Read a Book Days from Akio Kamei and Jesse Born if you need something else to read, too.

Secret Book Box by Hideaki Kawashima

This year I present the stunning “Secret Book Box” from the Karakuri Creation Group artist Hideaki Kawashima. Produced for their “Story” themed exhibition, the box does not reflect a particular individual story but rather encompasses the enchantment that great stories weave together for our enjoyment and discovery.  The box, crafted from magnolia, cherry, walnut, chanchin, and maple woods, forms the shape of three interlocked books of different colors.  The pages are made from black and white yosegi created by master Ninomiya, which adds such beauty and provenance to the work. 

Like the intricate plot twists woven into great stories ...

There are many, many stories to discover in these pages.  Master Kawashima has outdone himself with another masterpiece.  The puzzle is rewarding, requiring approximately thirty six moves to reveal all of its secret chambers, which a numerous.  Opening the box and its many compartments is an enjoyable process of discovery, like reading a good book.  Similar to book chapters, there are different phases to this puzzle as well, and the finale is wonderful.  If you aren’t paying careful attention, you might even miss the ending, but you’ll be left with a feeling that all the plot twists haven’t been fully resolved.  Keep reading, and the satisfying dénouement makes this box one to treasure and gives it a place of pride on the bookshelf. 

Beautiful page yosegi from Ninomiya

“Some like to believe it's the book that chooses the person.”  ― Carlos Ruiz Zafón  

This quote by the “The Shadow of the Wind” author rather reminds me of another well-known adage, if you happen to know a fellow named Olivander: “The wand chooses the wizard.”  One of the most beloved set of books in our family is the Harry Potter series.  Clearly we are not alone, as this series has broken all sorts of international publishing records over the last decade.  To toast the Secret Book Box and celebrate Book Lover’s Day I’ve made a few tasty tipples one might find at fine establishments like the Three Broomsticks and the Hog’s Head in Hogsmeade.  First of all we have Butterbeer, that delicious delight full of foamy goodness that all muggles deserve to taste.  There are numerous recipes floating about for this treat, and it can get quite elaborate.  My son (the ultimate Harry Potter fanatic) and I were quite satisfied with a simple version.  We went with the cold style (Butterbeer can also be served hot, for a warm winter treat) and turned butterscotch soda slushy by putting it in our ice cream maker.  Adding butterscotch syrup to vanilla cream soda also works well if you don’t have butterscotch soda.  The foam is the best part – we made butterscotch whipped cream by whisking heavy cream, sugar, powdered sugar, vanilla extract and butterscotch syrup together. This heavenly mix gets heaped upon the slushy drink and the result is hard to put down.  This is good enough, but of course I went even farther by adding a touch of rum to mine – Butterbeer is speculated to be mildly alcoholic in the books, after all.

A few potions from the wizarding world

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.” – Cicero

And for the adult wizards among us who hanker for something a bit stronger than Butterbeer, I poured a bracing glass of Firewhisky, the potion of preference for merry magicians.  Pick your favorite whisky (or whiskey if you’re Stateside) and add a dose of spicy cinnamon syrup.  The drink (as I’ve created it, at least) is like a cinnamon Old fashioned, with a serious kick.  Not to be confused with a Sirius Black, which is not a drink at all.  Many thanks to J.K. Rowling for these delightful drinks.  Here’s to the magic in boxes and books, so enjoyable to open.  Cheers!

What magic awaits in your favorite book?

 “I cannot live without books;” – Thomas Jefferson

2 oz fine bourbon or whisky
½ oz serrano pepper infused cinnamon syrup
Stir ingredients over ice to chill and dilute, then strain into a favorite glass. Sip and let yourself fall under its spell.

For more about Hideaki Kawashima:

For prior book themed puzzle boxes see:

Friday, August 4, 2017

Louvre Is In The Air

Ahhh, Paris, the City of Light.  I’m sending out a toast to my friends in France this week, to celebrate that luminous city and some intriguingly perplexing people who happen to be there.  One of those people, let’s just call him “Mr. Puzzle”, has produced, in perfect proportion, a tiny replica of a palace which is also the world’s largest museum.  We circle to the first arrondissement and marvel at I. Pei’s Pyramid to begin our cultural immersion.  Presently, perhaps, we head straight to the most famous of art works housed therein, DaVinci’s Mona Lisa (is her smile impish? perturbed? pleased?) … only to find that it cannot be found.  What sorcery is this? Go ask Brian.

The Louvre by Brian Young

Brain Young, that is, aka Mr. Puzzle, the brilliant, baffling and inimitable puzzle producer from Queensland.  His shop is well stocked in the finest puzzles the world has to offer, many of which are designed and crafted by his own hands using exotic Australian hardwoods.  His limited editions often reflect a specific location or famous landmark, such as his award winning Big Ben sequential discovery puzzle.  His newest offering, another sequential discovery puzzle, is “The Louvre”, a mini model of the famous museum crafted from indigenous prized Papua New Guinean Rosewood.  A nice engraving of the museum façade adorns the puzzle’s front surface, which is studded with metal ornamentation.  There is a hole on top, purportedly for a flag pole, and you are given a few instructions.  You must search the Louvre, recover the lost masterpiece, and raise the French flag high in victory, to solve the intended puzzle properly.  Since the painting is hidden inside, protectively placed, this is technically a puzzle box.  Anyway I’ve made plenty of exceptions for Brian Young's work in the past, it’s much too much fun to pass up.  The Louvre has three separate locks to deduce – did you think security would be lax here? – including a novel mechanism Brian invented previously (part of the infamous SMS Telephone Box, one of the most difficult puzzle boxes ever invented).  I wrote about that one last year, after months had gone by without a single person in the world having solved it. The lock from that box which is recreated here is almost identical, pardoning polarity, but easier to navigate, thanks to the ability to see a bit of what is going on at that point.  How kind of Brian, he must have felt guilty about the SMS torture box – err, telephone box.  The Louvre is truly enjoyable.  Like a leisurely stroll through the famous museum, it is enlightening, rewarding and satisfying.

Mercifully, this puzzle makes you feel like saying merci

Continuing with the French theme, I politely present the unofficial cocktail of intoxicated Parisian puzzlists.  This ideal pairing packs a historic punch – it’s named after a deadly World War I machine gun, after all.  And it contains gin, naturally, the favored ingredient of many of my inebriated puzzle pals.  While there’s evidence of the drink’s existence in the mid 1800’s (Dickens mentions it tangentially in personal papers from an 1867 trip to Boston), it didn’t become the famous “French 75” until dubbed so at the New York Bar in Paris, popularized during the American Prohibition era.  Made with gin, lemon, sugar and champagne, the deliciously deceptive drink is particularly potent.  In the words of the British novelist Alec Waugh (brother to the more famous Evelyn Waugh), it’s “the most powerful drink in the world.”

Pineapple in Paris (perhaps a French 37?)

Not content with this most classic of cocktails, I purposefully pondered a slight modification - I just couldn’t leave it as is.  Puzzle people are among the most warm, welcoming and hospitable on the planet, and what better symbol of those virtues than the pineapple?  No? Trust me, look it up.  So for the official unofficial cocktail of imbibing Parisian puzzlers I substituted pineapple cider for the champagne.  The delightful result is an incredibly pleasing, playful variation on the classic.  I certainly encourage all interested potion purists to order the Soixante Quinze while in Paris and toast the day.  However, if luck might have it, and you find yourself in possession of pineapple cider (in pineapple possession, that is to say), give this one a try.  Cheers, mes amis.

You'll fall in Louvre with this pair

Pineapple in Paris

1 oz gin
1 oz simple syrup
¾ oz fresh lemon juice
3 oz pineapple cider (use champagne for the classic French 75)

Shake all ingredients but the bubbles over ice and strain into a flute. Add bubbles on top and garnish with a twist.  Or the Mona Lisa made out of citrus peels.  à votre santé!

In parting, perhaps you noticed an interesting pattern pervasive on these ingeniously penned pages.  How often does it appear?

For more about Brain Young, aka Mr. Puzzle:

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Diamond Sounds

It’s always a treat to discuss one of Kagen Sound’s fine boxes.  He has made a reputation for himself as one of the world’s foremost puzzle box makers.  The description doesn’t quite do justice to his work.  His designs are an evolution of his background in mathematics, and he identifies himself as a mathematician who has channeled that intellectual pursuit into his wood working.  But he is also a formidable master craftsman recognized by his peers around the globe for his skill.  His creations achieve the pinnacle of quality and beauty and can be admired for their form alone as objects of art.  Yet they contain delightful, logical, and often mesmerizing movement within them, to actualize their purpose, and “open”. 

Diamond Box by Kagen Sound

Kagen Sound’s name is also tied to his work and life ethos.  He and his wife changed their last names together when they married, choosing a word which reflects their character and the quality of their life’s work.  It’s a beautiful daily affirmation.  I can see it in the Diamond Box, a true diamond in many ways.  The puzzle box is as elegant as you would expect from this artist, crafted from gorgeous figured west coast big leaf maple and walnut.  It features an ebony diamond centered on the lid, showing through a patterned window.  The box shimmers with the finished polish typically reserved for fine musical instruments.  Playing this instrument takes some practice as well, but once mastered, it sounds like a diamond.

The maker's mark

To toast this sound creation I present the Ruby Diamond, a cocktail created by Matt Ducker, a food and lifestyle multimedia editor and columnist, which combines two unlikely allies – gin and mezcal.  Classic cocktail contain a single “base spirit” – such as gin in your Martini, or rye whiskey in your Manhattan.  Modern mixologists began to combine base spirits in a single drink a while back, producing interesting and unusual results.  Some combinations work better than others, and some just seem like a bad idea – at least in theory.  Gin and Mezcal, surprisingly, work incredibly well together, creating complex layers of flavorful interplay.  The drink is essentially a sour with these unusual base spirits, plus a healthy dose of Italian Amaro to make things truly interesting.  Ducker’s recipe calls for Cappelletti, similar to Campari but less sweet, and I used Meletti, again like Camapari but more complex with added flavors of grapefruit and saffron.  The drink is delicious – a diamond in the rough.

Ruby Diamond by Matt Ducker

Why pair the Diamond Box, with its ebony diamond, with the Ruby Diamond cocktail?  Once you solve the puzzle, and can open the lid, the ebony diamond changes to a vibrant pink ivory in a magical transformation.  It’s a brilliant touch from the master maker.  And that would be that, and it would be enough, if you’re not paying attention.  That’s all I’ll say for now.  Except to say that a secret box with a hidden secret of its own is a diamond indeed.  Cheers!

Two Diamonds in the rough

Ruby Diamond by Matt Ducker

1 ½ ounces gin
1 ½ ounces mezcal
¾ ounce Cappelletti (I used Meletti)
¾ ounce fresh lemon juice

¼ ounce fresh orange juice

Shake ingredients together with ice and strain into a favorite glass. Garnish with diamonds and rubies.  Sound nice?

For more about Kagen Sound:

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Side Notes

I’ve been meaning to feature this little box for a while, as a way to say thanks.  The box in turn was a thank you gift from the maker, Tracy Clemons, who sent it as a companion piece to the original “Writer’s Block”.  I wrote about that incredible box quite a while ago now, calling it the ultimate “Boxes and Booze” box (an honor also bestowed on Kamei’s Whiskey Bottle, of course).  The Writer’s Block is a seriously large and sturdy piece from Clemons which resembles a hefty chest. On the front it has an imposing wooden padlock keeping it all closed up tight.  To start, you must discover hidden tools which are helpful in picking that lock.  Once released, the box opens along a diagonal hinge to reveal that it is a functional writing desk, with two separate compartments which are, of course, locked.  There’s a lot more to discover and the erstwhile writer is eventually rewarded with something to help loosen his tongue – there are two whiskey glasses and a bottle compartment (yes with a bottle stashed – did you seriously have to ask) secreted away inside.

Writer's Block 2 by Tracy Clemons

One detail I never mentioned about that box was how it arrived the first time I received it from Tracy.  As stated, it’s very large and heavy.  The contents had shifted significantly and there was some damage to the box and internal contents. The padlock had snapped right off and the box was in two pieces.  A few other pieces had broken. One of the glasses had shattered.  Needless to say I was a bit disappointed.  The box was sent back and eventually returned, better than before and with some new improvements.  A few months later, something else arrived from Tracy - a little “Thanks for your patience, sorry that happened, and here’s a side piece to go with the original” gift.  

A traveling kit for when inspiration strikes while on the road ... or for when it fails to strike ...

Formally known as the “Writer’s Block 2”, this little wonder is also fondly called, at various times, the “ink blot”, the “traveler’s kit” and the “sidecar”.  It's small relative to its parent box, more the size of a standard puzzle box, and quite handsome.  With matching details and a similar design sense, the sidekick sidecar fits right in alongside the original.  On top sits a fountain pen, complete with metal nib.  The ink must be inside, obviously.  Only this is another Writer’s Block, so maybe not.  In fact there is a set of shot glasses hiding inside this clever companion piece.  The secret mechanism is wonderful as well, and perfectly ironic for the puzzle’s name.  No case of Writer’s Block would be complete now without this little bonus.

If only I could make this situation right ... err, write

I’ve also been meaning to write about another classic from the dawn of cocktails called the “Sidecar”, and this puzzle box has given me the perfect pairing opportunity.  The Sidecar is the fancy, evolved version of a prior original drink, the Brandy Crusta, which was invented in New Orleans in the mid nineteenth century by Joseph Santini.  It was then made famous by the “Professor” Jerry Thomas when he published the recipe in his 1868 cocktail book.  The Crusta elevated the cocktail game, which was typically a mix of spirits, sugar, water (ice) and bitters (i.e. the Old Fashioned), by adding some lemon juice and a sugared rim to a glass of brandy, curacao and bitters.  This was a turning point for cocktails and a leap forward, believe it or not.  If the Crusta was an evolved cocktail, the Sidecar was the refined finale.  Unlike the typical sidecar, which rides alongside the more prominent primary vehicle, the cocktail Sidecar stole the show.  The drink is of course almost identical, but as it came to life in Paris during the American Prohibition, it took on a more elegant and mystical air.  There, at the famous Harry’s New York Bar, it was made with cognac, and sweet orange Cointreau, along with the lemon juice.  The sugared rim acted as more than a flourish, providing an important additional component of sweetness essential to each sip.  The name, so the story goes, was for the Army captain who it was created for, who reportedly arrived to receive the tasty tipple in a motorcycle sidecar.  True story? Who knows.  It’s clear the drink existed as the Crusta long before the Sidecar showed up, but that’s the way the crusta crumbles.

Tantris Sidecar by Audrey Saunders

A classic sidecar would have been just fine for this pairing, but I felt like it needed, well, a little extra.  So I continued following the evolution and refinement of this drink into the current era.  Which brings us to one of the pioneering figures of the modern cocktail revival, a woman named Audrey Saunders.  Her Pegu Club bar set new standards when it opened in New York.  Through her exacting creative process she invented a handful of well known modern classics, including the “Tantris Sidecar”, an innovative and delicious update to the original.  This Sidecar once again improves on the original and takes center stage.

Calvados and Chartreuse plus a little pineapple make this sidecar take center stage 

Another apropos aside about the perfect pairing of the Writer’s Block 2 with the Sidecar pertains to the alternate meaning of the term sidecar in libation lingo.  The term was adopted by bartenders who would misjudge the amount of cocktail they were mixing, and have too much for the glass.  The extra would be poured into a shot glass and served alongside the main drink as a little bonus, a sidecar.  Some even suspect that this term is truly how the Sidecar cocktail got its name, too.  How perfect that the Writer’s Block 2, a true sidecar of a puzzle box, contains a set of shot glasses, just in case there’s a little extra liquid inspiration overflowing from the original box.  Here’s to the little extras in life – cheers!

These Sidecars are the main attraction

Tantris Sidecar by Audrey Saunders

1 ¼ oz. Cognac
½ oz. calvados
½ oz. Cointreau
½ oz. fresh lemon juice
½ oz. simple syrup (1:1)
¼ oz. pineapple juice
¼ oz. green Chartreuse

Shake ingredients together with ice and strain into a sugar rimmed glass. Lemon peel garnish is traditional.  Make extra and add a little sidecar to your sidecar.

For more about Tracy Clemons:

For another Audrey Saunders modern classic cocktail:

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Born Again

Back from the Victorian Age where he got lost in a good book, returns American craftsman Jesse Born to his workshop in upstate New York.  You may recall his Victorian Book puzzle box, a beautiful and mysteriously ornate work full of secrets and surprises.  Emerging from that ancient era he has produced something rather logical – the “Sequence Logic” box.  A beautiful, polished box crafted from gorgeous exotic hardwoods including Katalox (Mexican Ebony), Tulip Poplar, Cherry, Maple and Bird’s Eye Maple, the Sequence Logic box is full of wonderful details both outside and in.  Most striking are the colorful banded dovetailed bars on the front, which are quickly determined to slide back and forth.  These seem to interact with the two sets of vertical bars which appear to be locking things in place.  Things start to happen as the various bars are moved, but it’s not so simple – as the name suggests, there’s a specific sequence to this logic which is required.  

Sequence Logic Box by Jesse Born

It’s all complex and confusing enough that once you have cracked this code and revealed the beautiful interior of the box, set it aside for some time and returned, you may struggle again to determine the sequence.  Even better, once the box is opened, there is a lovely mechanism inside which allows you to reset the bars however you would like to create a completely different sequence.  It’s a really nice touch and adds an additional element of enjoyment and layer of complexity to this incredible piece.  Jesse spends a long time designing his boxes and often goes through numerous prototypes before he is satisfied.  For the Sequence Logic box he created no fewer than six prototypes, for example, before settling on the final mechanism and design.  All that effort and attention to detail clearly show. 

Beautiful details and exotic woods with a polished finish

To toast this fine box I’ll stick to the sequence and offer something equally special.  The “Exit Strategy” comes via Natasha David of New York’s Nightcap, who took her inspiration from the classic Manhattan but left it far behind.  At Nightcap, Co-owners David Kaplan, Alex Day (both from Death and Co.) and David focus on simple, elegant drinks which would be great for a last call – even if the night is still young. The Exit Strategy embraces this idea right down to the name.  

Exit Strategy by Natasha David

Originally based around the unique American craft brandy Germain-Robin, I substituted another incredible American craft brandy from Nappa Valley Distillery.  The “Grand California” is an infusion of their wonderful Sauvignon grape brandy with locally sourced orange peels, which is then aged to perfection in oak barrels.  The mixture of Amaro Nonino, with flavors of thyme, menthol and orange, and Amaro Meletti, with its delightful saffron, caramel and burnt orange flavors, create something truly spectacular with this brandy.  I added a few drops of Beehive Bitters’ incredible spiced orange bitters to seal the deal.  The drink is sophisticated, sweet and sultry, perfect for a little late night logic.  This is one exit strategy that will keep you coming, just so you have an excuse for going.  It might not help you find the exit to the Sequence Logic box, but you won’t mind.  Cheers!

The logical way to plan your exit

Exit Strategy by Natasha David

1 ½ oz Amaro Nonino
¾ oz Germain-Robin Craft Method Brandy (I used Grand Californian from Nappa Valley Distillery)
¼ oz Meletti Amaro
6 drops salt solution (I substituted Beehive Bitters Spiced Orange)
orange twist garnish

Stir ingredients together with ice and strain into a favorite glass.  Garnish with an orange twist and start working on the exit strategy - for the liquid in your glass.

For more about Jesse Born:

To see the internals and logic bars of the Sequence Logic Box, click (SPOILERS) here.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Pennies From Heaven

Who doesn't have fond memories of strolling along the boardwalk as a child?  If you were deprived of that wonderful experience, I can tell you it was a place full of magic, excitement, sweet delicacies and adventure.  If not, then you know what I mean.  One of the most enjoyable sections was the arcade, where skee ball and air rifles tested your skill.  Thomas Cummings, who makes wonderful puzzle boxes from his home workshop in Georgia, recalls the boardwalk fondly – especially the old ‘penny arcade’ games of his youth.  His “Eden Workx” puzzle boxes are like little arcade games as well, each requiring a different sort of puzzle to be solved before allowing the box to be opened.  Cummings also likes a bit of misdirection and foul play, which is all fair in my book.  

Penny Arcade by Thomas Cummings

His “Penny Arcade” continues his series with a nod to the nostalgia of the vintage boardwalk games he recalls.  The box is unique in that it features a small see-through window on top, with a dial visible through the window.  The dial and surrounding knob have odd notations, numbers and symbols all around them, which don’t immediately appear to make any coherent sense. Hmmm – cryptic clues, a viewport and a test of skill and wits?  Take my penny, I'd like to play!  And the fun begins.  Cummings has channeled his fond penny arcade memories into another great box which will test your cunning with a smile.  If you’re lucky, it might even read your fortune!

Step right up, turn the dial, and test your skill

To toast this nostalgic number we will reference another boardwalk favorite, the carousel.  Last seen whirling its way around Kelly Snache’s Carousel Box, the Carousel Bar in the Hotel Monteleone is famous for the Vieux Carre, an old New Orleans classic.  This update to that old classic swaps the cognac for pear brandy and the Drambuie for apricot jam.  Adding preserves to cocktails is a wonderful way to bring new flavors and textures to the drink, and no one does it better than star mixologist Jeff Morgenthaler at Clyde Common in Portland Oregon.  His “Copper Penny” ode to the Vieux Carre hits all the right targets and wins the prize.  Here’s to old times, new times, and fond memories both old and new.  Cheers!

Copper Penny by Jeffrey Morgenthaler

Copper Penny by Jeff Morgenthaler

¾ oz. rye whiskey
¾ oz. pear brandy, preferably Clear Creek
¾ oz. sweet vermouth, preferably Punt e Mes
1 ½ tsp. apricot preserves
¼ tsp. Angostura bitters

Shake ingredients together well with ice and strain into a favorite glass. Lemon peel garnish. Take aim and set your sights on sipping.

That's my two cents, for what it's worth

For more about Thomas Cummings: