Tag Archives: bar

Pubs vs. Bars vs. Clubs vs. Taverns

It should come as no surprise to anyone that I am fond of drinking establishments. It would be odd, as a writer of a book covering whisky, if I did not have at least some affection for these sorts of locations.

What’s striking to me is how distinctive my needs are for these sorts of places. Or rather, how many places out there cannot meet these needs. Because, when I examine them, these characteristics that I am looking for in a watering hole are, while distinctive, are still quite easy to meet. They are, in no particular order:

  • The establishment must create a sense of community. I’m not saying that the drinking place must be an upstanding member of the chamber of commerce or members of the local Fraternal Order of Moose. Instead, these places need to illicit a feeling within the customer that they are part of something special. And by customers, I mean all customers, regardless of age, gender, or social status.
  • The place in question must not be intimidating. It must be warm and inviting.
  • Finally, it must be a place of celebration, or of laughter. Typically if the other two items are met, this third one will happen by default. But sometimes not, so it is worth mentioning.

What amazes me when it comes to bars, pubs, clubs, and taverns, is how many fail to meet these three items. This suggests to me, as a simple observer, and one who has routinely dismissed any idea of running such an establishment, that either it’s quite difficult to hit these marks, or that owners have no idea that these are desirable traits in their business, or that they simply do not care to cater to those who want that out of their social drinking experience.

We see this last point demonstrated in many places. Clubs ( who, almost by definition, seek to exclude) are typically the worst offenders of this, seeking to market themselves to a select clientele, be they under-25 supermodels and celebrities, or white males over the age of 65 who hide out in their Eagles, Elks or other similar social clubs . I’m not stating that such exclusion is improper, only that such exclusions exist and should be noted.

And let’s not kid ourselves. There are some places out there who accomplish their exclusivity through sheer intimidation. This can be and is still done intentionally, in many locations. One need to only be of the wrong race, or gender, or have the wrong sexual preference to see this up front, and at times, in your face. In a great majority of the drinking establishments throughout the United States, the straight male rules the roost.

But intimidation comes in other forms as well, sometimes without the owners even realizing. Everything from liquor and beer selection to where the bar is located is enough to get a place labeled as “snobby” or “elite”. There are times when nothing will run out a customer faster than to not have their beer selection available to them, be it Guinness, Duvel, or Budweiser.

As I get older, bolder, and wiser, I find myself no longer willing to settle for places that seek to exclude, even if I meet whatever unspoken requirement needed to stay at these locations. And in my travels, I have found that, for the most part, those places that call themselves “pubs” rather than bars or clubs, meet my needs.

I find this peculiar for a variety of reasons, with the first being that this is not a hard and fast rule. There are bad pubs in America, just as there are cozy bars and taverns. Secondly, Pubs, at least from a legal definition, are bars. Let’s make no mistake here. The fact that owners of these “pubs” have called them as such demonstrates to me how important it was to differentiate these places from the bars, clubs, and taverns. Yet many of these self proclaimed pubs are often based, not on actual British or Irish pubs, but rather on the American idea of what a British or Irish pub is or should be. In essence, many of these pub owners have taken the traditional pub ideal, and have created places that are similar, yet they are distinctive enough to be their own entity.

And now that I reflect upon it, the taverns here in Washington State (where ‘tavern’ has a definitive legal meaning that marks them differently that bars and clubs) seem to have more in common with British and Irish Pubs in terms of substance and feel than the British and Irish pubs that dot our American landscape. Note to self: research this for a later post.

That aside, there seems to be a concerted effort on “pub” owners here in the States to create a sense of community amongst its patrons. Some bars do this as well, and they need to be commended for this as much as anyone else. But in my experience, if one is looking for those three items listed above, the odds of finding them in a self-proclaimed “pub” seem higher than finding them at any other drinking establishment.

A Question for the Ages- How to Classify a Brownie?

O n the way home from Canada I put forth the following question to Tara: Is the delicious chocolate brownie that we all know and love a cookie or a cake?

What followed that question was a half hour discussion on what constitutes a cookie, a cake and even a bar. Like many of our discussions surrounding food, nothing was fully resolved, aside from the fact that we both have fairly strong opinions on fairly trivial matters.

However, we’ve both done some canvassing of various co-workers and friends via e-mail and conversations. Here are some of the comments.

  • “Cake! It’s definitely not a cookie…. I’m pretty strict about what is called a cookie vs. what isn’t – a cookie is a shape, not the ingredients that make the shape. So if it’s not in the shape of a cookie – it ain’t a cookie.”
  • “It’s a cake isn’t it? I mean, it doesn’t have icing and it’s denser than a cake, but it’s still a cake. It’s cake-ish.”
  • “Now that is a perplexing questions re the brownie’s. I think they are pretty much something to put ice cream on and as a result in a category all their own.”
  • “I don’t think brownies are a cake. But I can see why some people think that they can be. But I don’t think they’re cookies either, but I can also see why other people believe that they are. They are offered on cookie tables at Christmas after all”.
  • “A brownie is not a cookie, nor would I say it is a cake. My Midwest upbringing classifies brownies, rice krispie treats, and related ilk as bars. Are bars not a common culinary-accepted term or ‘genre?’ So rigid. If forced to choose, to me, a cookie is more ‘wafer-ish,’ as in thin, therefore a brownie in particular would be more cake than cookie – it is not thin, but has ‘loft’ and a cakey texture (and frosting).”

My response to the “A brownie is a bar” argument…aren’t bars a cookie variant? It’s is socially acceptable to have more than one bar in one sitting, much like it’s socially acceptable to eat more than one cookie at one sitting. But it’s socially unacceptable to have more than one slice of cake at one sitting.

Additionally, aren’t Fig Newtons bar-like? Aren’t they considered cookies? Or are fig newtons the ‘missing link’ between cookies and bars?

Feel free to add your opinion to this completely trivial matter in the comments below.

Technorati Tags: Brownies, Cookies, Cakes

Coconut Lime Bars

We currently have two guests in our home, Shelly’s daughters aged 16 and 14. While neither are what one would call “picky eaters”, they both know what they like and are somewhat suspicious of what they don’t.

Which is one of the reasons for me sticking to desserts when it comes to researching lime recipes – While I might be able to get them at least poke at a Pork Salad with Chilli Toasted Peanuts and Lime, my odds of pleasing their palates with a pastry bar or two are much better. What can I say, I’m an old softie. And lazy, as I am leaving it up to their mother to feed them vegetables.

I am finding that key lime filling is actually one of the easier items to get right, and it’s a fairly large target to hit. Getting the crust right is a much smaller target to hit. I’ll leave it up to you to see if the crust in this recipe is any good.

  • 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 1/2 cup All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 10 tablespoons chilled butter, unsalted and cut into pieces
  • 2 14 oz. cans sweetened condensed milk
  • 6 eggs yolk, from large eggs
  • 1 cup key-lime juice
  • 4 teaspoons key-lime zest

Pre-Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Spread coconut on a baking sheet and toast until golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes, tossing every 2 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour and sugar. Add half the coconut to the mixture. Cut in butter until mixture resembles a coarse meal roughly pea-sized. Pat mixture into a 9-by- 13 inch pan and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

In a different mixing bowl, beat together egg yolks and condensed milk. Whisk until thick. Slowly add in lime juice and zest.

Pour onto crust, sprinkle with remaining coconut, and bake for 7 minutes.
Cool completely, then chill until ready to serve.

Serves 12

Technorati Tags: recipes, lime, coconut lime bar

Holiday Cookies: Rustic Nut Bars

Another cookie recipe, another week of me shamelessly harvesting content from a food Magazine. This time, the magazine is the December 2005 issue of ‘Gourmet’. The recipe? Rustic Nut bars (found on page 110, for those of you playing at home).

These bars turned out great. However, it should be stated that you should enjoy nuts if you wish to make these cookies. If you’re sorta kinda indifferent to nuts, then you should probably avoid this recipe. Why? Because each bar is about 80% nuts, which may allow you to quickly OD on them.

Thankfully for me I love cashews, hazelnuts, almonds and pistachios. The results here reminded me of a cookie version of the PayDay bar, sans nougat. It’s quite good.


  • 2 1/3 cups AP Flour
  • 1/2 cup bakers sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 stick (3/4 cup) chilled unsalted butter, diced
  • 1 large egg


  • 3 oz. whole almonds, with skin
  • 4 oz chopped hazelnuts
  • 2/3 cup clover honey
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and in slices
  • 2 Tablespoons heavy cream
  • 6 oz cashews, salted and roasted
  • 5 oz pistachios, shelled and salted

Place oven rack in the middle position and pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. With a fork, start adding the pieces of butter, bit by bit. Use the tines of the fork to mash the butter. Continue this process with the butter and fork smashing until all the butter is gone and the flour-mixture looks like a coarse meal in pea-sized butter lumps.

Add the egg to the flour. Here I used my (clean) hands to mix the dough thoroughly, squeezing the dough to incorporate the butter efficiently.

Place the dough in a 13″x9″ buttered glass baking dish.Press the dough evenly on bottom. Do not press up the sides of the dish.

Place the dish in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Remove, and allow to cool for 40 minutes. Set aside.

Meanwhile, reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Place the almonds and hazelnuts in a shallow baking dish and roast in the oven from 8-10 minutes. Remove, and increase the oven temperature back to 375 degrees F.

In a medium sized sauce pan, bring the honey, brown sugar and salt to a small boil over a medium heat. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Then boil, without stirring for 2 minutes. Add butter and cream and continue to boil for one minute, allowing the butter to melt. Remove from heat and add all of the nuts to the syrup, coating thoroughly.

Spread nut mixture over the cookie crust. Place baking dish back in the oven and bake for 20 minutes or until the top has carmelized and bubbled. Remove from oven and allow to cool in refrigerator for an hour.

Cut and serve.

Makes 64 bars, depending on the size of your cut

Technorati Tags: Food and Drink, Holiday Cookies, Recipes, Cookies

Supermarket Finds: Krusteaz Key Lime Bars

Key Lime Bars Hello, and welcome once again to America’s Favorite Daytime Fun Show – Kate’s Supermarket Finds.

It’s here where I bring home a product that I find odd or peculiar, often due to some labeling malfeasance. These products often wish to take advantage of a consumers ignorance and lack of label reading, and promise tastes and flavors that they can’t possible deliver. In the past, I have discovered Macaroni and Cheese made without cheese, Pistachio Puddings made primarily with almonds, and a guacamole dip made without avocados.

Today the product is Krusteaz Key Lime Bars. According to the front of the box, it’s “Naturally Flavored”, giving the impression that key limes are in the ingredient list.

However, upon examining the label, we discover:

Key Lime Filling Ingredients: Sugar, food starch-modified, canola or soybean oil, natural flavor, citric acid, salt, malic acid, yellow 5, yellow 5 lake, yellow 6, yellow 6 lake, blue 1

Not only are there no key limes any where within the “key lime” filling, but no mention of any sort of limes! As for the “natural flavor”? We’ll just have to presume that this is some sort of mystery ingredient for now.

And is it just me, or does the name of the company sound as if it’s owned by this man?

I so love the supermarket, where nothing is ever as it seems.

Technorati Tags: Food and Drink, supermarket finds, key lime bars

Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars

Tonight for dinner, I didn’t want anything fancy. So I had Beer Brats and Perrier. This dinner is what cultural anthropologists would call a “mixed message”.

At any rate, I was looking for something sweet to finish off the meal, and didn’t want to get too fancy. This recipe filled the bill perfectly. I also got extra points for using homemade blackberry jelly so graciously offered by a coworker.

  • 1/4 stick unsalted butter, soft
  • 6 Tablespoons creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup of your favorite jam or jelly

Pre heat your oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large glass mixing bowl, combine the butter, peanut butter and brown sugar. Whisk until you get a fluffy peanut butter mixture of sorts. Add the egg and mix that in well. Finally, add the flour and salt, and mix in until you get a crumbly dough.

Set aside 1 cup of the dough.

In an 8″ x 8″ pan, press the remaining dough firmly in as a crust. Make sure that it fits from one side to another. Using a spoon, spread over the jelly so it covers the bottom crust. Coarsely crumble the one cup of dough that you had set aside over the jelly layer. Place in oven for 30-35 minutes.

Remove from oven and allow to cool for 45 minutes. Slice and serve.

yield: About a dozen bars, give or take, depending upon how you cut them