Smug Cocktail Gold Medalist

Smug Scout’s favorite Smug mixologist Lisa was highly displeased to think that another restaurant, that Smug magnet Rustic Canyon in Santa Monica, might offer a cocktail more Smug than any of hers. Lisa really does not need to worry about this. Yes, it is true that one drink, Lift Off, has Old Tom heirloom small batch artisanal gin, arugula, fresh cranberry, lime, agave, and small batch ginger beer in it. Such a drink sets the bar very high for any Smug mixologist. Still, Smug Scout would like to point out to Lisa that she has created many, many very Smug cocktails, so her Smug cocktail output is much higher than that at Rustic Canyon, which has a paltry list. Nonetheless, Lisa was feeling competitive, so she decided to outdo Lift Off, if not send it crashing to the ground, by creating a cocktail whose name is still under wraps but contains Tru organic gin, fresh pressed kale, apple juice, lemon, ginger, and agave. Now it is very clear: in the Smug Cocktail Olympics, Lisa is the gold medal winner.

Smug Scout tried it when she went to Akasha on Friday. She was delighted that Lisa had someone in the kitchen cold press what must have been bushels of kale because there was a huge vat of kale juice. This drink was extraordinary. It was not only the most Smug cocktail Smug Scout has ever had, but it was also one of the very most delicious. It is the perfect embodiment of virtue and vice, the apotheosis of the Apollonian/Dionysian split. In fact, since Smug Scout is also the apotheosis of the Apollonian/Dionysian split, you could say that this kale cocktail is Smug Scout in drink form.

But in case you believe Nietzsche would have scoffed at such twaddle or simply do not give a fuck, Smug Scout will move on to her next topic: yet another highly annoying conversation she overheard between a polite bartender and, this time, a customer you would have no choice but to describe as a dour Nordic troll. Since Smug Scout likes Nordic people, she would like to clarify here that blonde hair and blue eyes do not automatically signify beauty. Even this gene pool is occasionally befouled by unfortunate features, pasty sickly skin, and freakish balding patterns.

This dour Nordic troll first irked Smug Scout by officiously setting up his iPad on the bar. Smug Scout would not want an iPad in front of her when she is sitting at a bar or, if she really thinks about it, sitting or standing or lying down anywhere at all in the world. Furthermore, she would not have had space for an iPad because she had a Smug seasonal cocktail array in front of her, and this is much more entertaining, not even to mention more ethical, than a gadget made by faceless serfs in China.

Smug Scout should have known that the iPad on the bar was a harbinger of greater repulsiveness. It came when this cretinous specimen spoke. Below is the conversation as Smug Scout would have handled it.

  • Smug Bartender: May I get you something to drink?
  • Dour Nordic Troll: You do offer seasonal cocktails here, right?
  • Smug Bartender: Yes, here is our list.
  • Dour Nordic Troll: You call this seasonal? I’ve had some of these so-called seasonal cocktails before. In other seasons.
  • Smug Bartender: Do you live in L.A.?
  • Dour Nordic Troll: Yes, in Silver Lake.
  • Smug Bartender: I knew it. Well, then you must know that L.A. has only three seasons: fire, awards, and summer. Fire season can be a problem unless you like Cajun blackened produce.
  • Dour Nordic Troll: So then what are all those cocktails she’s drinking?
  • Smug Bartender: Those are seasonal cocktails from the private list.
  • Dour Nordic Troll: Can I see it?
  • Smug Bartender: No.
  • Dour Nordic Troll: Fine, just bring me a beer and some chicken wings.
  • Smug Bartender: Great seasonal choices. Would that be Super Bowl season?

Lisa has already informed Smug Scout, in terms you could call absolutely non-negotiable, that she will never be a guest bartender. Smug Scout accepts this interdiction, but she would like to keep Lisa heading towards new frontiers of Smug cocktails. What is the next one? Smug Scout thinks it is organic purple mizuna.

Smug Restroom in Silver Lake

Smug Scout recently had dinner at a French restaurant in Silver Lake called Café Stella. When she arrived, she had no idea she would find an especially high level of Smugness because restaurants aiming to be authentically French do not feel they need to bother with any trifling preferences of American diners, Smug or otherwise. In fact, it is much more likely that French restaurants in this country will imperiously denounce and even operate against such preferences, because they know that Smug people love all things French–the more authentique the better, even when that looks like utter contempt and hostility towards their American countryfolk. Of course, since Smug people also scorn their own countryfolk, especially oversized flyover state philistines who gorge savagely in troughs at chain and buffet “restaurants,” they do not take any hostilité personally.

Still, Café Stella is in Silver Lake and thus faces aggressive competition for Smug business, so for purely commercial reasons it makes sense that the menu will include items such as beetroot, Jerusalem artichokes, and wild arugula. Naturally, Smug Scout ordered and loved these locally grown vegetables, which she washed down with more than one verre (more like a bouteillenon, more like a bouteille +) of eco-insensitive French wine. (Smug Scout does not even want to think about the long journey of those bottles from Marseille to the Port of Los Angeles, though she imagines it to have been a scenic one, perhaps accessorized by chic French sailors in blue and white striped shirts and berets with red pom-poms on them.)

Anyway, whatever opinion you have of Smug Scout’s French wine consumption, most likely not much of one, you will not be surprised to hear that she needed to visit the restroom. And this is where she discovered Café Stella’s hidden monument to Smugness: a roughhewn reclaimed wood sink. Smug Scout’s mouth dropped open when she saw this sink! But this crudely formed deep woods sink is not the only Smug part of the story. No, Café Stella was not content just to have a Smug sink. Café Stella also wants its guests to have a restroom experience Smug Scout can describe only as rustique. First of all, the cold and hot water controls are merely decorative: this sink only dispenses cold water. Furthermore, there is no soap. And finally if you want to dry the cold soapless water off your hands, there are no towels.

Smug Scout was absolutely jubilant as she dried her hands on her jeans. She was jubilant because it is a powerful commitment to Smugness to violate what Smug Scout believes to be a city health code just to give Smug patrons a nonsensically phony yet primitive camp-out hand-washing adventure. She later found out there is a second restroom that has a wood-free sink, hot water, soap, and paper towels. How fascinating that Café Stella has a Smug refuge within what is otherwise a slickly beautiful restaurant. Une autre bouteille de vin de Gascogne s’il vous plaît! Smug Scout will deal with her carbon footprint crisis another time; she wants to go back to that Smug restroom in Silver Lake.

Smug Restaurant in Culver City: Akasha

By now you probably know that Smug Scout spends a lot of her time (and probably half of her salary) in Smug restaurants, which are flourishing these days as more and more customers have Smug demands when they go out to eat. Let us discuss the most obvious indicators of a Smug restaurant:

  • Reclaimed wood everywhere possible (floor, walls, tables, chairs, bar, restroom accessories, clipboards to display the check, restaurant signage)
  • Old fashioned yet industrial light fixtures, such as exposed Edison bulbs or other oddly shaped bulbs dangling on wires
  • Complete farm names listed for each menu item
  • Only in-season produce, even when that means a menu limited to greens, root vegetables, and citrus
  • Cocktails with small batch spirits and local fruit, vegetables, and herbs, all coming from the FM that is most local to the restaurant (except in Portsmouth, where the one single, if monumentally Smug, FM does not have enough produce to supply more than a handful of low volume restaurants for a very short season)

However, one indicator that may be less obvious is the frequency with which kale appears on the menu. A truly Smug restaurant will heavily feature kale, at least two or three types, generally curly (i.e. Scottish) and black (i.e. cavolo nero) in at least five dishes on the menu. What is it about kale? Smug Scout does not really know. Smug Scout thinks rainbow chard is prettier and Bloomsdale heirloom spinach tastes better. Perhaps kale is Smug because the foodie cognoscenti had to rescue it from its previously obscure, unpopular status, just like an extremely ostracized acne-bespeckled nerd with braces and head gear who grows up, becomes buff, stars in SNL, and is suddenly hot.

But of course Smug Scout loves kale, and she loves a Smug restaurant in Culver City called Akasha that stars kale in many menu items. In fact, it is her favorite restaurant in Los Angeles, perhaps the entire West Coast (and is even a formidable opponent for Smug Scout’s favorite East Coast restaurant, Fore Street in Portland, Maine). Because of her frequent and enthusiastic visits, she knows the owner, the chef, several of the servers, and of course all of the bartenders. The bar manager/ sommelier/mixologist, Lisa, has even become a wine tasting friend. Smug Scout believes it is rare for someone to be so equally skilled as a sommelier and mixologist. Lisa is also proud to offer cocktails that are free of bacon (such as the persimmon/pomegranate punch and citrus jalapeño margarita in the above photo) though she has not yet made one with kale (please, Lisa?). You can surely understand why Smug Scout fantasizes about living above the restaurant and going there every day.

However, she does not fantasize about working there, because, as at any Smug restaurant, there are some vile and repellent customers. During a recent visit, Smug Scout saw some people in this category. She was sitting at the bar, as she prefers, when a group of four people arrived. She would describe these people as members of the aged arrogant moneyed lower classes, she thought perhaps “industry,” as they say in L.A. First, they imperiously displaced everyone near them in order to commandeer corner seats at the bar. Smug Scout scowled at this sense of entitlement. But the real irritant with such people is when they order food, because aged arrogant moneyed lower class people have a lot of special requests, none of them Smug. Smug Scout overheard a highly annoying conversation between a bartender and a grizzled large-nosed leathery female, whose primary goal in life, from what Smug Scout could tell, is being the unsightly spoiled wife of one of the short squat balding wealthy men. Smug Scout is not impressed by this level of ambition. Smug Scout will not replicate the exact conversation because the bartender’s answers were far more polite than the unsightly spoiled wife deserved. Thus, the below conversation is how Smug Scout would have handled it (and proof that she is highly ill-suited to work as a bartender in Akasha or any Smug establishment):

  • Smug Bartender: Would you like another glass of wine?
  • Unsightly Spoiled Wife: Yes, and we’d like to order some food. We would like a Caesar salad, but why is this one made with kale?
  • Smug Bartender: The chef prefers kale. The customers prefer kale. Customers have told us they would like to see kale in every single dish on the menu, not just half of them. One customer even wants it in all the cocktails, but we will not be indulging her.
  • Unsightly Spoiled Wife: But kale doesn’t belong in a Caesar. We want romaine.
  • Smug Bartender: We do not serve romaine.
  • Unsightly Spoiled Wife: Do you have any lettuce?
  • Smug Bartender: We do not serve lettuce. We only serve organic locally grown seasonal greens.
  • Unsightly Spoiled Wife: Well, can you put any of them in the Caesar?
  • Smug Bartender: I do not believe the chef cares to make a Caesar with mizuna or  frisée.
  • Unsightly Spoiled Wife: The nerve! Then we will have the chicken wings.
  • Smug Bartender: People like you are the reason that dish is offered. Our kale eating customers do not gnaw on the wings of a bird with more brains and refined taste than you have.
  • Unsightly Spoiled Wife: I hope the chicken wings at least do not come with kale.
  • Smug Bartender: No, but before those chickens met their untimely end, they feasted only on the best organic local kale, so you will be consuming kale, just once removed.
  • Unsightly Spoiled Wife: I can’t win here, can I?
  • Smug Bartender: No, but let me bring you that glass of wine. I will refrain from adding a purple kale garnish.

You can certainly see why Smug Scout is not cut out for such work. She has no tolerance of those who choose chicken wings over kale. She wishes Akasha would remove that dish from the menu, just as she wishes to see kale in the cocktails, but she still loves Akasha more than any other restaurant.

Smug Bowl = Smug Nature Experience

Big city Smug people, unlike their woodsy New England and Pacific Northwest counterparts, have an ambivalent relationship with nature. On the one hand, they love its dramatic beauty and lovely pre-reclaimed raw materials. On the other hand, it can be messy and disgusting, even dangerous. This is why big city Smug people, for example, tend not to like sleeping in a nylon bag on top of insect-infested dirt or grass, an unsavory activity also known as “camping.” Smug Scout recently read in a Smug West Coast magazine called “Sunset” about a popular new Smug activity known as “glamping.” She has a strong distaste for such inane neologisms, but now she understands what this one means: large tents with reclaimed pine plank floors, king size feather beds (naturally including turndown service), elk-antler bedside lamps, and private bathrooms with heated slate floors. It means local seasonal organic cuisine, often featuring local seasonal organic wild animals, served in a rustic lodge dining room or by some bearded laconic peon directly to the tent. It means outdoor activities that require North Face or Patagonia faux roughing-it costumes and, for legal reasons, an extremely experienced team of local guides. Smug Scout believes that this pale, defanged adventure can cost about $500 a night.

Smug Scout will be blunt: she is no more interested in glamping than she is in camping. She does not want to sleep in some foppish tent. She does not want to eat local seasonal organic wild animals. In fact, she hopes their living relatives will pillage those overwrought “tents” while the phony campers are away on some trumped-up “wilderness experience.” She certainly does not go “rafting” or “fly-fishing.” Her desire for all things rustic seems to have one massive limitation: she does not like to visit the scene of the rusticity; she really only wants a precious souvenir from it. For this precise and utterly cockeyed reason, she recently fell in love with the reclaimed wood bowl you may have already spotted in the above photo of a reclaimed wood bowl. This reclaimed wood bowl is a Smug masterpiece because it has the rare distinction of simultaneously embodying both the stunning beauty and unpredictable ferocity of nature. You can see the lovely rings and the handcrafted looking shape. You can guess that it was as expensive as handcrafted objects with zero practical utility usually are ($80) and purchased at a Smug venue (the artisanal Piedrasassi wine tasting room in Lompoc, California). What you may not see, what you must feel, is that it has extremely sharp, rough edges. You could get a splinter. You could cut yourself. You could catch your hand-knit fair trade humane non-mulesed-wool sweater on its feral points.

So we are left with the following paradox: Smug people would rather bring nature indoors than bring themselves outdoors. So be it. This pretentious tomfoolery is much better for the local economy than a bunch of primitives in sleeping bags who use trees for toilets.

Smug Cocktail in Santa Monica

Here is a revelation for approximately none of you: Smug Scout consumes many Smug cocktails. She has mixed feelings about these, if mainly glowingly positive, so you may in fact be wondering what exactly makes a cocktail Smug. Here are the crucial criteria:

  • It will take a ridiculously long time to make, perhaps ten or fifteen minutes, because every single element will be painstakingly layered and mixed (seldom shaken), of course very, very slowly, which is to create excitement as well as to justify a breathtakingly high price that Smug customers will call “the cost of artisanal molecular labor.”
  • It will be made by a bartender, called a mixologist, most likely a man in a three piece suit and laughable Civil War era facial hair. He may have a watch chain, but this is purely decorative, as he only knows how to use his iPhone to tell time.
  • It will feature local artisanal small batch spirits with brand names unknown to almost all customers, including some of the Smug ones. You will not find anything as gauche as Grey Goose, Bombay Sapphire, etc. You will find handmade looking labels that are covered in text in old fashioned looking fonts. The most Smug spirits today, especially rye and bourbon, will not come from a flyover red and redneck state but rather New England or the West Coast.
  • It will include any of the following ingredients: local organic fruit, possibly marinated or infused in the booze; local organic vegetables, possibly pickled in house and displayed in mason jars; spices, always in their whole, unground form; and heirloom eggs, usually minus the anorexia-unfriendly yolks.
  • It may require devices not commonly associated with drinks, perhaps a mini blowtorch to char a citrus peel, or a compressor to pressurize nitrogen for a dramatic, even potentially deadly, chemical coldness without the boring pedestrian quality of ice cubes. Still, Dr. Smug Scout would like to point out that no one has needed to have her stomach violently removed after eating plain old dull ice cubes; on a Smug scale, having your stomach chopped out is ultimately less Smug than drinking a cocktail with ice.
  • If it is a drink on the rocks, it will feature one single rock. Smug cocktails do not need more than one specially shaped gigantic ice cube that in Smug Scout’s opinion drastically reduces the amount of alcohol she is paying an extortionate sum to drink.
  • It may feature foams, bubbles, airs, mists, vapors, smoke, and flames. Smug Scout finds this presentation no more than vaguely interesting. After impatiently waiting an eternity for her drink, she does not care that it arrives in a cloud of smoke or mist or fog or smog or whatever the fuck it is. All of that drama disappears after one sip and leaves no trace beyond a massive bill.
  • It may feature garnishes you will not want to eat, such as a raw bean or unripe berry or blackened lemon rind (see above), or absolutely should not eat, such as a piece of leather or tobacco for “Wild West” style cocktails, or removable parts of trees, such as twigs, bark, acorns, and leaves. Smug Scout imagines those latter items in Smug New England cocktails.

Smug Scout may not be Smug enough for all of those elements, but she is Smug enough for some of them. She recently had an incredibly Smug and lovely cocktail at a Smug restaurant in Santa Monica called Rustic Canyon. It is called Lift Off and features Old Tom heirloom small batch artisanal gin, arugula, fresh cranberry, lime, agave, and artisanal ginger beer. It may not have arrived enshrouded by mist, but its Smug pedigree is strong:

  • It took ten minutes to make by a somber bartender in a brown three piece suit and 19th Century facial hair.
  • It contains local arugula. Arugula. No additional commentary necessary.
  • It contains a raw cranberry that Smug Scout was strongly advised not to put in her mouth and chew.
  • It contains a gin Smug Scout did not know: Old Tom. At first she thought it was an obscure brand, but then later she learned that it is a rare recipe from the mid-1800s. This is more Smug even than Prohibition-era cocktails because when it comes to drinks, the older the recipe, the more Smug the concoction. Still, Smug Scout wonders cynically what is next. American Revolution-era pirate-imported rum cocktails made by bartenders in waistcoats and tricornes?
For anyone seeking further information on Old Tom gin, here is a description from the incredibly Smug Ransom Spirits web site. Smug Scout is not sure if this exact gin was part of her Smug Cocktail–not one of the cagey Rustic Canyon employees she asked revealed the brand–but it was either that or one of three like it available in this country.
N.B. Someone at Ransom needs to learn correct apostrophe placement.

“This Old Tom Gin is a historically accurate revival of the predominant Gin in fashion during the mid 1800’s and the golden age of American cocktails. The recipe was developed in collaboration with historian, author, and mixologist extraordinaire David Wondrich. Old Tom is the Gin for mixing classic cocktails dating from the days before prohibition. Its subtle maltiness is the result of using a base wort of malted barley, combined with an infusion of botanicals in high proof corn spirits. The final distillation is run through an alambic pot still in order to preserve the maximum amount of aromatics, flavor and body. Only the ‘heart of the hearts’ (the very best portion of distillate) is retained for this special bottling.”


Smug Recycling Contraption

If there is a Smug recycling contraption somewhere in the world, where do you, my Smug readers, think it could possibly be? Take this test:

  • A. Switzerland, which has the highest rate of recycling worldwide
  • B. San Francisco, which has the most comprehensive recycling program in the U.S.
  • C. Los Angeles, which offers full recycling and composting at area farmers’ markets
  • D. Portsmouth, which is in the state of New Hampshire

You will be astonished to find out that the winner is D, Portsmouth. Enough with the Portsmouth mania, you non-Portsmouth residents may be crying out. Too bad Portsmouth routinely outdoes all other epicenters in virtually any Smugness competition. Smug Scout simply cannot ignore the fact that Portsmouth all but invented Smug Scout.

And now Portsmouth has this new bossy and redundant recycling contraption. Smug Scout is fascinated that it not only tells you what to do, it also repeats that same information as what not to do. For example, the left side is for “No Trash” but the right side is for “Trash.” Similarly, the left side demands “Cans” which the right side rejects: “No Cans.” This redundancy is moron-friendly. In essence, a moron only needs to read one set of instructions to operate the contraption accurately, but if he/she is too befuddled, the other set gives the same instructions negated, so the chance of accurate placement of disposed items increases. What a Smug and savvy system, Portsmouth!

The other aspect Smug Scout loves is the implicit dire warning involved in the sign on the right: “Landfill.” For Smug people, “landfill” may as well mean “nuclear waste dump site.” For Smug Portsmouth residents, it may also mean “Turnkey Landfill,” which is a grotesquely large fetid stinking mass of a garbage dump in the nearby town of Rochester. Smug Scout only knows about this because a Smug Portsmouth Bartender friend took her there as part of an extensive tour of his hometown and its environs. He thought it would be funny for Smug Scout to be utterly disgusted. Smug Scout was actually more disgusted by the anti-Smug restaurant he brought her to afterwards, but she digresses.

In short, you do not want to need the “Landfill” side. You do not want to buy anything you have to dispose of there. You do not want that self-righteous judgment from spying Smug bystanders. If you cannot finish, for example, that revolting pasty, gummy, flavorless, vicious-insult-to- the-New-England-tradition clam chowder from, for example, New Hampshire’s worst restaurant (could it be in…Rochester?), you would be better off dumping it in the toilet and renaming it “puke.” After all, in an eco-obsessed Smug context, “threw it up” is somehow less egregious than “threw it out.”

Smug Tattoo

Smug Scout does not like tattoos. Not one bit. She knows this is not a popular position, but she stands by her unpopular positions because she knows that ultimately they are inconsequential anyway. She believes tattoos usually fall into three broad categories:

  1. Pure delinquent. These belong to actual convicted criminals. This may be the most unexpectedly and unwittingly Smug, even artisanal, category of tattoo because a number of them are hand designed and handmade (albeit in a penitentiary), often with found materials and under conditions that, for lack of a more prison-centric term, we could call “rustic.” The images are often highly symbolic (such as teardrops to signify murder), religious (if in a primarily stylized rather than observant way), and violent (particularly in reference to gang life). Smug Scout finds these rather interesting because they function as grisly autobiography. Smug Scout likes this sort of thing in the same way as other people whose firsthand exposure to violence does not extend far beyond hostile parking space stalking in the FM parking lot or pushing ahead of some Smug mob to get the last bunch of wild arugula.
  2. Pure roughneck. These belong to an anti-Smug group of people. Not only are they members of the non-moneyed lower classes, but they are not trying to hide this status. Their hobbies may include motorcycles, raucous music, cheap processed food, large batch liquor and canned beer, hunting creatures smarter than they are (deer, moose, women, etc.) and using tools Smug Scout cannot identify. The images are often vulgar (women with exaggerated assets) or maudlin (dead people). They may contain messages of questionable relevance in florid, illegible script. Smug Scout finds these rather sad and unsightly, especially when age and weight gain distort them grotesquely.
  3. Pure bullshit. These belong to people who may want to convey an air of the delinquent or the roughneck or the edgy or even just the vaguely interesting, though their lives are socially acceptable and painfully mundane. This group would never have gotten tattoos fifty years ago when it was not hip to permanently memorialize some clichéd whim on your body (though Smug Scout imagines butterflies everywhere must be delighted to see themselves on so many ankles). What used to be the trashy domain of professional sailors and truck drivers is now called “body art” or “using the body as a canvas.” Smug Scout sees it more as “using the body as a narcissistic billboard.”

So except for the handcrafted prisoner tattoos, Smug Scout did not see much Smugness in tattoos. She did not see it until her recent visit to her favorite Smug epicenter, Portsmouth NH. A Smug friend of hers introduced her to its owner (also the artist) at a Smug local bar where she was lucky enough to photograph it (and, yes, this is typical of Smug Scout’s silly drinking shenanigans). It is the most Smug tattoo she could have ever imagined: a hand etched looking deer with powerful antlers leaping through a forest of birch trees. Antlers are Smug because in their dead form Smug people–who would never dream of anything as barbaric as actually hunting the deer–feel they match reclaimed wood furniture and frivolous local handcrafted household accessories. Birch trees are Smug because they are pale, thin, uniquely colored, grow wild in New Hampshire, and, most importantly, look beautiful even when other trees are bare and the landscape displays a deathly bleakness. This tattoo conveys a fascinating phenomenon to Smug Scout: a local, seasonal, artisanal person, in essence a Smug product in human form. Smug Scout would probably never get a tattoo herself, but she does wonder what tattoo would suit her. She feels certain it would involve black kale.