Smile and Nod

Smile and Nod: The Escapist at the Webbys

Russ Pitts | 16 Jun 2008 17:00
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I've got a big bowl of jelly beans on my desk.

"What are you now, Ronald Reagan?" Was the first question, posed by my boss.

Yes. I'm Ronald Reagan. Eat one for the Gipper and tear down this wall!

Actually I just like jelly beans. But only the good ones. Only the super tasty ones that taste just like one thing, but in sweet jelly bean form. Also, they have to fit inside my Polar Bear jelly bean dispenser. Push on his tush and the beans come out of his hiney. It's disgusting and cute and fun. Like life.

Also disgusting and cute and fun: Bean Boozled Beans. Basically, you get a box with various colors of beans, but for each color there are two flavors; one sweet, one foul. The yellow beans with brown splotches are either flavored like banana or pencil shavings. The Blue ones are berry or toothpaste. Orange is either peach or vomit. And the black ones: licorice or skunk spray.

A lot of folks consider the black ones a losing proposition either way, and I'm one of them, but I had to try one. I had to try all of them. Julianne and I took turns. I popped an orange, she popped a yellow (buttered popcorn or rotten egg). It was like a scene from The Deer Hunter. Our co-workers were surrounding us waving money in their fists and shouting Mao! Mao! This is how we're weathering the summer game drought at The Escapist.

I got peach and breathed a sigh of relief. Julianne got rotten egg and is still tasting it. We went back and forth for a while, I got mostly sweet, she got mostly foul. Then we each had one left: black. We shot them at the same time and almost immediately started retching in the trash cans. In case you're wondering: skunk spray tastes like death. I recommend avoiding it.

I'm not sure there was any clear winner in our little contest of wills (we were pretty clearly all losers), unless it was the folks at Jelly Belly who concocted this foul experiment. We all wondered aloud what life must be like for the poor dolt who has to flavor test those things.

"No, the vomit flavor is ... not quite right. Take 237 ..."

Speaking of perfect flavors, the hotel bar at the Soho Grand makes the best mojito I've ever tasted. Perhaps the best anywhere. If you're in town, I recommend giving it a try.

Mojitos are one of those tricky drinks that sound simple but can be horribly mucked up if prepared carelessly. Rum, sugar, lime, soda, mint. Simple, but not. Too much lime, or too little rum and you've ruined it. It's a testament to the subtle power of the human tongue that so few ingredients can be aligned in so many ways that aren't right, but only a few that are. And when they are ... it's as good as it gets.

The mojito at the Soho Grand is layered. That's the key. If you start at the top, you get a mouthful of lime juice; start at the bottom and you'll be drinking straight rum. But if you wait, let it settle, or - heaven forfend - stir it a little, you'll find perfection. Sip it through the straw. The mint leaves have been muddled, but not crushed. They remain whole. You won't be picking bits of green out of your teeth the rest of the day, but you can taste them. The sugar is caked onto the bottom of the glass. You'll get a few grains in every strawful. They'll crunch between your teeth. This drink has texture. It's basically heaven in a glass. But I digress.

(Pictured: Jon Hayter and Russ Pitts pause to reflect on the significance of The Escapist's twin Webbys.)

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