Posts by Chris Stout
Last week our friends at DraftKings invited us to Staples Center for the official unveiling of the DraftKings Fantasy Sports Bar & Lounge. Located inside the arena just past the box office, the new 4,500-sq.-ft. F&B concept is loaded with monitors and touch-screen tablets so LA sports fans can get their daily fantasy sports fix going while watching the Kings, Clippers and Lakers compete. Designed with the feel of a Vegas sports book, the $1.5 million dollar craft beer and gastro pub was completed in a very quick timeframe and features 35 Toshiba Smart TVs, six Toshiba Virtuoso Screens, 15 Microsoft Surface Tablets and four iMacs. Fans can sign up or log in to their DraftKings accounts through these devices in order to enter tournaments, unlock food discounts and sign up for ticket giveaways.
The menu for this new spot was designed by Josiah Citrin and features some pretty scrumptious takes on classic bar food like hot dogs with mac and cheese. Fans thirsty for a a Bud Light alternative inside Staples will be happy. with the selection of Goose Island options on tap.
In addition to the AEG and DraftKings cutting the ribbon on their new DFS hangout, DraftKings also presented a $2 million check to week one winner BALLAH who came from behind on the first Monday Night of the season to put up 228.04 points and take home the top spot in the DraftKings Millionaire Maker Week 1 league.
This BALLAH fella and his buddies looked familiar to me. Turns out they all went to my hye school. Glendale High breeds some pretty savvy fantasy football enthusiasts, and these guys were no different. BALLAH and his boys have been playing in yearly leagues for more than a decade. They all knew their stuff, too.
Going into that first Monday Night BALLAH’s $2 million winning lineup was sitting in 3,000th place. Carlos Hyde’s two scores and final six yards put BALLAH over the top. Here’s his lineup:
“The thing is,” BALLAH told me, “you need like 30 points from each spot. You can maybe miss on one guy but you need that kind of production out of each spot.”
That’s definitely a different approach from your regular fantasy football decision making. In a standard league, you hope that all your guys will produce, but you’re happy to get 10 points out of your flex spot. You want each slot to give you numbers, but with DFS, you’re forced to go big. You have to build your lineup using a budget, yes, but you need those home run hitters in there. You gotta go for the boom and bust dude that’s undervalued, not for the consistent player who will guarantee you steady production without a ton of upside.
BALLAH’s score of 228 was good enough to win it all week 1. The next week’s DraftKings Millionaire Maker featured a top scorer who cracked 300 points. Imagine that. Typically your happy if you can crack that 100 point week barrier with your standard annual fantasy team. If you’re near 200, you’re totally dominating. But when the whole field has access to the same players with the same budget restraints, you need to think bigger. You need to aim for 30 points from each spot.
So keep that in mind next time you dabble in daily fantasy sports. If you’re playing to win big, you need big time production from every single start. That likely means passing on trustworthy point scorers so you can swing for the fences on guys who have higher week-to-week ceilings.
I remember a time, just a few years ago, when I would try to order Bulleit at a bar or restaurant and the bartender or server would look back at me with total confusion. “I’m sorry, Bulleit what now?” was was a common response to my order. People just didn’t know. It just wasn’t readily available.
That’s simply not the case anymore. Bulleit Bourbon is no longer some up-and-coming craft whiskey brand that few people know about. It’s everywhere. Nowadays, if you can’t spot the trademark Bulleit bottles with their slightly askew labels sitting on the shelf of your favorite bar, it’s the exception, not the rule. But what’s really interesting is how the brand achieved this, how it went from this modest word-of-mouth spirit to the whiskey sitting at the cool kids table.
I first fell in love with Bulleit three years ago, and I’ve had a front row seat for this Bulleit boom ever since. After my first Bulleit Bourbon review, I was hooked. I cut single malt Scotch completely out of my rotation. Bulleit Rye became my go-to drink of choice, and it didn’t stop with me. Friends and family followed suit. I championed the brand in part because I love the taste, but also because MANjr and Bulleit have had some pretty fun times together.
There was that time we hung out with Isaiah Washington and his wife after the Pan African Film Festival and just talked around a table and sipped Bulleit Bourbon 10 Year in the back of a restaurant. Washington was like me, a Macallan man, but he made the switch to Bulleit and didn’t look back.
There was the trip to Austin for SXSW back in 2013, when my love for Bulleit Rye & Coke was first established. From Chef Ben Ford’s cookbook launch party in a Beverly Hills backyard to the Bulleit Woody event last night at the Coolhaus in Culver City, my experiences with the brand have always been positive. That’s why I push Bulleit like I’m some heavy duty shareholder or something. For me, it’s a quality product that’s been paired with quality experience, and I genuinely want to share this vibe with other people.
That’s why the brand has grown so much in the past few years. Just a couple weeks ago, The Wall Street Journal ran a story about it:
Sales of Diageo’s craft-style Bulleit bourbon—inherited in 2001 when it bought Seagram Co.’s wine-and-spirits portfolio—rose 35%, stripping out currency fluctuations, in the year ended June 30, making it the company’s fastest-growing unflavored North American whiskey. Mr. Menezes has said Diageo aimed to build Bulleit through word-of-mouth, creating “a lot of experiential stuff” and working with bartenders rather than doing large-scale TV advertising.
“I want to make sure Bulleit stays with the hipsters in Williamsburg and does not become a mass brand,” Mr. Menezes said on a January conference call.
And you know what? It worked. It totally worked. You know about the brand because someone who liked it told you about it. You don’t see big billboards or huge print ads or any TV coverage whatsoever. Bulleit has built up brand loyalty by creating brand champions who associate a good product with a good time. It’s a really smart way to market to a generation that craves authenticity over hype, craft quality over mass production.
Last night’s event is just another example of this clever marketing strategy at work. The mission was simple: cultivate an atmosphere where friendly people can enjoy craft culture at work, expose them to quality products and create brand champion converts who spread the good word.
The Bulleit Woody at the Coolhaus in Culver
It starts with the location. Coolhaus in Culver City is an ice cream shop that started as an art project. Co-Founder Natasha Case toyed with the idea of Farchitecture or “Food + Architecture” as a way of “bringing architecture to the people.” She partnered with Freya Estreller and started creating uniquely flavored ice cream sandwiches inspired by architecture and architecture movements. They capitalized on the food truck craze, bought a busted postal van on Craigslist and used it to serve ice cream sandwiches at Coachella. Quality product paired with a good time experience led to media attention that was amplified to new levels through Twitter and other social outlets. Now they’re blowing up. Multiple store fronts. Fleets of trucks in multiple states. Prepackaged in-store products. Catered events for celebrities. You get the idea.
Coolhaus served up seriously tasty sammies last night. The menu was full of tough choices. I mean you really couldn’t go wrong with cookie options like choco chip, double chocolate, snickerdoodle and gluten-free coconut almond supporting ice cream options like fried chicken and waffles, salted chocolate, dirty mint chip, vanilla bean, seasonal sorbet or whiskey lucky charms. I went for the chicken and waffles ice cream on peanut butter cookie. It tasted as amazing as it sounds.
But all this craft culture goodness didn’t stop with desert. The main event was the showcasing of the Bulleit Woody, a trailer designed by Brad Ford that features a fully stocked Bulleit bar and 150 year old wood that’s been repurposed from Bulleit barrels. The trailer was originally created as a Neiman Marcus Fantasy Gift Guide item. It came with a year’s supply of Bulleit and a price tag of $150,000. This thing became so popular at events that Bulleit had three more trailers produced to cater to demand.
And what would a Bulleit event be without tasty Bulleit cocktails? Here’s what was on the menu:
BLT (Bulleit, Lemon & Tonic)
1.3 oz. Bulleit® Bourbon
2 lemon wedges
3 oz. tonic
Preparation: Build in a rocks glass, serve over ice.
1.33 oz Bulleit Bourbon
0.33 oz Coffee liqueur
2 dashes Orange bitters
Preparation: Add all the ingredients to a mixing glass and fill with ice. Stir until well chilled and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a wide strip of orange peel.
It doesn’t get much hipper than a well-designed trailer serving whiskey cocktails to bloggers and media folk in the back parking lot of an architectually inspired ice cream sandwich spot. The craft culture was on display all around. Good times were had. Brand champions were made. Stories will be shared.
It’s a brilliant strategy that has worked wonders. It has worked and will continue to work on me, my friends and family, bars and restaurants in LA and the entire whiskey marketplace in America. It’s cool to be hip, but you can’t manufacture hipness with mass production and overexposure. The hipness needs to drip slowly and gather up over time before it spills over and covers everything like it’s always been there. That’s a difficult, calculated and balance-dependent marketing play, but there’s no denying that Bulleit has executed it to perfection.
A proper cast iron skillet isn’t something you just casually add to your mix of available cooking tools. It’s a different sort of cookware beast. It’s both primitive and utilitarian, and timeless in more ways than one. The utility never goes out of style and the actual pan itself – if you can secure a good one – can be a staple of your kitchen for decades or generations to come.
There’s a certain degree of mystery surrounding this piece of cooking technology as well. From competing views on how best to use it to various approaches for proper care and maintenance, the cast iron skillet is a surefire conversation starter. Whether you swear allegiance to its superior cooking abilities or you’ve never owned one before, a cast iron skillet is something every man should have handy.
I’ve never used a cast iron skillet before. I’ve heard of them, sure, but I just never had the opportunity to try one out. So when FINEX sent a cast iron skillet for us to review, I wanted to make the most of the opportunity.
FINEX markets itself as the first brand to bring machine-polished, heirloom-quality cast iron cookware back to the States for the first time in over half a century. Founded in 2012, the Portland-based FINEX Cast Iron Cookware Company is helmed by Mike Whitehead, who got the start-up company going with two successful Kickstarter campaigns. According to a 2014 interview, Whitehead was raised in his father’s metal fabrication and welding shop. He wanted to know more about where his food came from and what was contained in it and this led the founder to “search for a healthier alternative to chemically lined nonstick pans.” With iron being part of his family’s fabric, Whitehead was able to push forward with the new start up. His goal was to manufacture a locally produced product that was an improvement on the classic cast iron skillet. That meant developing a new take that focused on an ultra-smooth cooking surface, a quick-cooling hand-polished stainless steel handle and a characteristic octagon shape that looks sexy and helps with pouring liquids. The end result is pretty successful.
I just moved into a new spot, so once all the boxes were unpacked, I wanted to give this new cast iron skillet thing a try. I read up on the how to maintain your skillet. Figured this was important because the last thing I wanted to do was mess up heirloom quality cookware after my first recipe. The FINEX cast iron skillet comes pre-seasoned with organic flaxseed oil, but the first few times you use it, it’s smart to add a little extra oil while the skillet is still new. The more you cook with the thing, the more oil you will add and the more seasoned the skillet gets. This doesn’t mean that you can’t ever wash the skillet. Don’t soak it or put it in the dishwasher or make other rookie moves like that, but rinsing in hot water and using a mild abrasive like a scrubby pad, coarse salt or brush is totally acceptable.
Okay, I knew how to care for the thing, but what to make? You can literally make anything in a cast iron skillet. That’s what makes these things so badass. You can do a breakfast hash, sear meat, bake things – you name it. If it needs heat and you can cook it on a stove or in the oven, you can pretty much do it with the skillet.
I decided to make beer glazed citrus chicken because I like all of those things and I wanted to try something saucy with my first skillet run. Here’s a link to the recipe. You can click over for the details, but essentially I made a zesty citrus glaze in a sauce pan, seared up some chicken in the skillet and then tossed everything together and into the oven to bake. The results were pretty amazing:
I really love how this thing can go from stove to oven and back with ease. It really opens things up from a cooking perspective. The skillet heats up quickly and evenly and the whole process was made more enjoyable because I know that this first meal is just the foundational layer of seasoning will grow as more meals are made in the skillet over time.
Was the handle quick cooling? On the stovetop yes, after the oven, not so much. I mean that should be painfully obvious, right? Well let the little burn mark on my left hand serve as a cautionary tale. The handle may look safe at all times, but any semi-intelligent human should know that this won’t be the case right after you take this thing out of the oven. Lesson learned / I have no idea how that happened. Purely the fault of the absent minded chef here. The skillet did it’s job just fine. Just something to keep in mind when working with an overly attractive handle like this.
Bottom line, this is a kitchen investment worth making. FINEX makes a quality product that’s completely manufactured in the USA. So I say support your primitive need to cook with iron. Support your country. Support your long term efforts to be a better cook. This is a long play cookware addition that requires a bit of upfront costs, yes, but it’ll grow with you and it’ll only get better with age.
There’s been a lot written about the V-MODA Crossfade M-100 over-ear headphones, and most of the reviews have been glowingly positive. This review is no different. These headphones are fantastic. V-MODA is the number one brand of headphones on Amazon for a reason. These things don’t get the pop cultural attention that you see with Beats by Dre or other popular brands of over-ear headphones, but they have become a favorite for DJs and audiophiles all over the world.
The thing I like the most about the Crossfade M-100s is that they feel pretty much indestructible. When you have a pair of Beats by Dre headphones in your hands, you get the feeling that with a little bit of force, you could completely crush the plastic that makes up the overall structure. They’re not super flimsy, but they don’t feel completely study either. Not so with the Crossfade M-100s. These things were built to withstand a nuclear attack. You can drop, twist, stomp, smash, bite, punt, pass or kick these things and they’ll be just fine.
This superior durability has been tested to the max. The V-MODA Crossfade M-100 headphones have a STEELFLEX headband and steel frame with interchangeable aircraft grade metal shields. The headband can be bent flat 10 times over without an issue. Theese headphones can survive 70-plus drops on concrete from six feet up, which is 10 times the industry standard. The kevlar reinforced cable and 45-degree plug can bend over 1 million times, which is 100x the industry standard. The traveling case that comes with the Crossfade M-100 is equally sturdy, but more compact than the cases that come with other higher end over-ear headphones.
You get the idea. You can abuse the shit out of these headphones and they just keep on ticking. But anyone can make extra-military-grade durable headphones. Okay, not anyone, but most governments and corporations with means can get the job done. But V-MODA pairs the rugged construction of the Crossfade M-100s with some superior quality sound output.
The best way to describe the sound that these things put out is unmuddied. Highs, kids and lows are crisp and distinct. The lows come in like they’re supposed to, rich and warm, loud but not overbearing. Each area of the sound spectrum has room to exist where it should, like a well organized closet. It’s quite remarkable actually. I’m a big fan of the low end of the sound spectrum. I listen to music with boom boom and I want to hear that boom boom. But it’s refreshing for the boom to have a place that’s distinct with room to spare, where clear highs and easy to hear mids can co-exist in the same headphone sound party.
If you’ve had bad experiences with low quality materials housing what should be top-of-the-line headphones, the V-MODA Crossfade M-100 headphones will be a welcome addition to your personal sound situation. You get the sturdy structure without any compromise in sound quality. I highly recommend these.
And if you like gaming or podcasts or Skype calls or just super easy voice recording, you can pair these headphones with a $30 BoomPro mic that features a steel flex arm and plug and play simplicity. The mic got the the same rugged, battle-tested qualities that distinguish the headphones from other options in the market, with quick mute and volume controls built-in and easy to access. An all around good combination of quality sound and durability, just like the headphones themselves.
And if all this quality and function wasn’t enough, you can now take advantage of the world’s first 3D printed personalized wearable technology in the form of custom printed shields for your M-100s. Material options include stainless steel, plated raw and precious metals. These shields run anywhere from $200 on up to $40,000 so you got plenty of range to express yourself.
A day before the ESPYs, Gatorade held its High School Athlete of the Year Awards in Downtown Los Angeles. The awards show was packed with the top athletes of today celebrating the achievements of young athletes primed to be the future stars of tomorrow. Gatorade has been honoring high school athletes for the past 30 years, and there are some pretty big names among the past honorees. Names like LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Candace Parker, Allyson Felix and Kobe Bryant. And that’s just the Gatorade Male and Female High School Athlete of the Year honorees. Previous Gatorade National Player of the Year winners include names like Peyton Manning, Derek Jeter, Emmitt Smith, Clayton Kershaw, Chris Weber and Alonzo Mourning. It’s distinguished company to be in, for sure.
State Player of the Year awards are given to student athletes in 12 sports: boys’ baseball, boys’ football, girls’ softball, girls’ volleyball, boys’ basketball, girls’ basketball, boys’ cross country, girls’ cross country, boys’ soccer, girls’ soccer, boys’ track & field, and girls’ track & field. The students in each category are recognized for individual and team achievement, academic achievement and character and community service. From the pool of state players, Gatorade awards 12 students with National Player of the Year honors. From this pool of 12 athletes, one male and one female are selected to receive Athlete of the Year awards.
Candace Hill was named Female High School Athlete of the Year. She was the first sophomore to take home the honor and the youngest athlete to ever win the Gatorade National Player of the Year award. She’s the first high school female athlete to run a sub-11 second 100-meter dash. She’s basically the fastest woman under 20 years old. Oh, and she has a GPA of 4.61. I can’t even imagine. Candace was competing at an event and was unable to attend the awards, but by all accounts she definitely deserves all the accolades.
Kyler Murray won Male High School Athlete of the Year honors. The starting QB for Allen High School, Murray led his team to three straight state championships. The guy has never lost a game as a high school quarterback, going 42-0 in his career. In Texas no less. That’s crazy talk. He threw for more than 4,700 yards, 56 touchdowns and ran for nearly 1,500 yards and 25 scores. Murray is on his way to Texas A&M where he says he’s going to get some time on the field no matter what. Murray had a very quiet confidence about him. His acceptance speech was mellow and humble. But the dude knows he’s got what it takes to ball at the next level. Keep your eye on him.
Hannah Storm hosted the awards and gave a heartfelt tribute to Stuart Scott, who had previously handled hosting duties for the event before he passed away this year. His daughters were on hand and gave their dad a great tribute as well, something they would do again at the ESPYs.
After the awards ceremony, we got a chance to talk to a few of the presenters that were on hand. We asked JJ Watt about his role as a tight end. DeMarco Murray talked about the recruiting efforts of Sam Bradford to get him to Philly. Karl-Anthony Thomas chimed in on Kevin Garnett, and Abby Wambach talked about her experience as a Gatorade Athlete and her upcoming downtime following her World Cup Victory. Here’s the video:
Our pals at Budwesier shipped us to St Louis this past weekend to attend the Bud and Burger Championships held at the storied Budwesier brewery. We first told you about this competition back in April after we attended the launch event hosted by Chef David Chang. Since that time, amateur chefs have been competing at festivals around the country for the chance to battle it out in the finals.
Before the burger action kicked off, we got a grand tour of the Budweiser Brewery from our old friend Brewmaster George Reisch. I met George in LA and we talked for a long time about Kolsch, Austrian vs. German beer, yeast, beechwood aging, all kinds of stuff. George is a fifth-generation brewmaster. His family started brewing beer in the mid 1800s in Springfield Illinois. George also served as the President of the Master Brewers Association of the Americas from 2008-09. Believe me when I say you will never meet a guy who has more passion or knowledge for the art of making beer. Having this master craftsman lead the Budweiser Brewery tour with all his enthusiasm and wisdom was a real treat.
Back in the mid-1800s, German immigrants came pouring through St. Louis and they brought their tasty lager beer with them. Lager is a crafted brew that takes time to make. It needs to rest and chill out. Back in the days before refrigeration, that required a cool dark place to store beer. This is why many lager breweries had underground faults.
Sampling ice cold Budweiser straight from the source, visiting the Clydesdale stables and seeing beechwood aging and big beer science in action was cool, but I was really digging our visit to the vaults underneath the Budweiser Brewery. Just one of the many perks of having Brewmaster George as your tour guide. As George explained, German immigrants would seek out areas where they could carve vaults out of limestone. This area of the brewery hasn’t been used for ages and back in the day, there wouldn’t have been any pipes in fault. When I showed George the photo of the vault, he sent me anold advertising tin from the 1870s that shows the vaults as they were originally used.
The Bud and Burger Championship wouldn’t be complete without the burgers. The finalists and their food trucks lined up to get samples out to everybody and the folks who attended had some serious options to choose from. BBQ pulled pork with bacon in one corner. Smoked bacon with brat sausage in another. Ground veal with a special mesquite steak sauce next to a truck serving burgers with Portobello mushrooms, red onion relish and garlic herb aioli. You get the idea.
In the end though, the people voted and it was the Angie Burger that came out victorious. The creation of Angie Bos, the Angie Burger featured glazed bacon with provel cheese and caramelized onions. Here’s the recipe:
The Angie Burger
Glazed Bacon, Provel Cheese, Caramelized Onions.
Type of Bun: Onion Bun.
Prep time: 15 minutes.
Cooking time: 20 minutes.
2 lbs. ground beef.
1 lb. ground pork sausage.
8 oz. shredded cheddar cheese.
3 oz. crumbled bacon.
1 egg, beaten.
Seasoning salt: mix salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, minced garlic.
Slice of American cheese.
Slice of Provel cheese.
2 stripes glazed bacon (glaze is 1:1:1: ratio of brown sugar, maple syrup and honey).
Caramelized onion (1/6 of a sliced onion, cooked in 1 tbsp sugar and 2-3 oz. Budweiser).
Fresh spinach for topping.
Head skillet to medium heat. Add in butter or oil, then sliced onion. Stir in sugar and Budweiser. Cook until the Budweiser is reduced and the onions are soft.
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Lay out bacon strips on parchment paper or greased rack on baking sheet. Combine brown sugar, maple syrup and honey in a bowl. Bake bacon for 15-20 minutes until it reaches desired crispness. Every 5 minutes, flip and glaze the bacon. (If using a rack, remove bacon to cook so it doesn’t stick.)
Combine ground beef, ground pork sausage, shredded cheddar cheese, crumbled bacon, egg and seasoning mix. Shape into 8 oz. patty. Put a divot in the center of the patty. Cook patty in skillet over medium-high head. Add a little Budweiser. Flip and cook the other side (flip only once). Place slices of American and Provel cheese on the patty, then cover skillet so cheese melts.
Assemble the burger: bottom bun, patty with cheese, glazed bacon, caramelized onions, spinach, sliced tomato and top bun
Chef David Chang
Angie took home a check for $100K and will also get the chance to star in a new cooking show that will appear on Esquire. Chef David Chang helped judge the competition and he was also present for a few of the different festivals where amateur chefs battled it out to get the the championship. Part of the reason that Chang signed up was that he wanted to be inspired.
“It was enlightening in ways that I never thought it would be,” Chang told me. “I wanted to do it partly to get inspired. As a professional I sorta get stuck in my own ideas or the people I’m surrounded with. It’s like being stuck in high school with the same kids your entire life,” he said.
“I surround myself with the people I know and it doesn’t really change. It gets homogenized. More importantly, even as a professional you get stuck with the ideas that you think you already know. Sometimes wisdom isn’t necessarily the best thing,” Chang said.
Chang explained that some of the recipes he saw were things that he would never do, but that’s a good thing.
“You can learn from anything,” Chang said, “and it’s stupid to say that you can’t.”
True learning and growing as a chef comes from the mistakes you make as well as the wild ideas you see from others.
“The real discovery isn’t knowing how to do it. The discovery is in fucking it up. Fucking up so hard is something I do less and less and less, even though that’s how I know I’m going to learn,” Chang said.
All of us can relate to that, especially in the kitchen. So if you want some burger inspiration to get your creative culinary juices flowing, check out the full list of the final Bud and Burger Championship recipes at www.budweiser.com/recipes.html
If you use headphones, and let’s face it who doesn’t, you got options. I’m not talking about brand or sound quality or color fashion statement options. I’m talking about the different types of headphones that are out there. Do you go in-ear buds or on-ear buds? If you go full phones, do you rock the on-ear, small on-ear or go full around-the-ear? What if you want more stability from ear clips or a neck wrap? You get the idea.
For me the choice usually boils down to small buds or big headphones. Earbuds are quick and easy, but sometimes you want that extra ear-enveloping music enjoyment experience. But if you’re working in the office or working out, you may not want to go full-on Colin Kaepernick with a massive set of over-ear headphones resting on your dome. There’s a time and place for each option.
Setting aside ear clips and neck wraps (because seriously why would you want to do that), there’s an interesting new addition to the headphone selection mix – Audio-Technica’s fully customizable SonicFuel Headphones. They’re not big, expensive headphones. But they’re not your run of the mill earbuds either. Sure, they’re in the ear bud family, but these things are made for maximum stay-in-place-ability without going clinging to your outer ear like some old school hearing aid device.
These buds do not budge. They derive their stability from an extra little rubber strip that follows the contours of your outer ear along the auricle, providing a subtle but sturdy flap that keeps the actual earbud firmly in your ear canal. That probably sounds less comfortable than you would expect, but these things rest nice in your ears without being to invasive. Jogging will not jar them loose. Nor will a hefty pat on the back from an over-eager coworker. When you put these on (or in?), you need to apply a small degree of force to get em out. Not a lot of force. Just a little, but tug nonetheless.
And most, importantly, these SonicFuel Headphones actually sound good. Solid lows, quality highs and the I’m-not-going-anywhere quality of the ear tip inserts provide a sort of design-based noise cancellation effect which is always nice. The headphones also feature in-line volume and mic controls so you can use em with your smartphone while your driving (if you’re into that sorta thing). I prefer speakerphone, personally. There’s also a bunch of different tip options so you can get a perfect fit for your specific ear type.
My one big knock on these is that despite the super sturdy construction of the ear tip and supporting c-tip that holds these things in place so nicely, the actual audio cord feels a bit weak. I haven’t had any issues with the review unit I received, but holding the cord in your hand or wrapping the headphones up for storage or transport, you just feel like the thin cord might not make it through conditions that come close to extreme. I haven’t abused mine so I haven’t had any issues, but I’m interested to see how the SonicFuel Headphones hold up over time.
Top of the line over-the-ear headphones these are not. They’re buds with benefits. If you value quality sound and in-ear stability over rugged durability, you’ll dig these.
Some people are on their phones way too much. I am one of those people. It’s not like I’m crazy anti-social or anything, but between all the calls, music streaming, PFT reading, texting, emails and crushing candies, a full cell phone charge in the morning isn’t likely to last an entire day. Sure, you can charge your phone at home, at work, in the car and all that, but we all have those days where we need more juice. And as phones get even more smarter, they need for constant charging becomes that much greater.
Enter the myCharge RazorPlus. This portable lithium-ion power bank packs a serious punch for such a small package. Slim, lightweight and easy to stash, the Razor Plus fits just about anywhere. Heading out for the night? Toss this thing in your lady’s purse. She won’t even know it’s there. Living the single life? No worries. This thing is comparable in size to a sleek cell phone. You can drop it the pocket of your jeans and still have room for other carry on items in your pants – like keys or that Costanza wallet you insist on carrying around with you.
The RazorPlus provides up to 13 hours of additional talk time for your smartphone. You can hook up your tablet or your sweet headphones or whatever else you lug around that could use an extra battery boost by the end of the day.
I love that this thing comes with a USB cord, too. Sure you have like 5-10 of those already, but they’re already hooked up to other things, right? When manufacturers assume that you don’t need an additional USB cord to go with your new digital toy, that irks me. The folks at myCharge know this, so they include an appropriately sized cord that you can easily pack with you RazorPlus.
You can find these things online for like $40. Think of how much you’ll use it, though. Day trips, late nights, flights, BBQs, sporting events, train rides, hours of Spotify and Candy Crush tournaments – you get the idea. For as much as you spend on your smartphone – both time and money – dropping $40 to make sure that thing stays on when you need it seems like a no-brainer.
Exactly 256 players heard their names called during the seven rounds of the 2015 NFL Draft. One of those guys was University of Miami (Ohio) cornerback Quinten Rollins, an intriguing prospect that the Packers selected with the 62nd pick overall. Rollins played four years of basketball in college and finished second in school history with 214 career steals. After securing a fifth year of eligibility, Rollins turned his attention to football, a sport he hadn’t played since high school.
The results were pretty impressive. Playing in just one season, Rollins racked up 72 tackles and seven interceptions in 12 games. That single season performance earned him MAC Defensive Player of the Year honors. He was invited to the Senior Bowl and kept things rolling, securing an interception in that game as well.
By all accounts, Rollins just knows how to get after it. He’s the only basketball player in Miami history to register two 7-steal games. His ball-hawking skills are unquestioned. He was a turnover machine on the football field and the guy likes to tackle, too. He may not have years of experience under his belt, but the dude’s a proven athlete who has shown that he can get results. I got a chance to chat with Rollins a couple weeks before the draft.
So what made Rollins go back to football?
“It was the right move,” he said. “I thought about playing football out of high school. I was playing both basketball and football, but basketball is the path that I chose for education purposes. It was my first opportunity to get to college. My first scholarship offer my junior year. I always knew that I would get back into football. It was just a matter of when and where. I thought about it after my sophomore year, but it didn’t happen. Then my senior year came around and I got an opportunity for a fifth year, and I just took a chance. I decided to sit down and meet with Coach Martin. I was in on a trial basis for spring ball. He gave me the opportunity to come out and earn a scholarship, and that’s what I did.”
I had read that Rollins considered playing basketball overseas, but ultimately, that idea didn’t appeal to him.
“Well, I’m a father. I had already been away from my daughter, being away at college with a 24-7 demanding schedule as far as academics and athletics go. I just didn’t want to go that far away from her. I felt like it would be better for me to stay over here in the US and get back into football. It was just a matter of when and where, and it just happened to work out perfect.”
Rollins is working with Speed Stick on their #DefyTheDoubt campaign. The experience of going from a student athlete to a professional with corporate sponsors supporting you as you make the leap to the next level has got to be a trip, right?
“It’s great,” Rollins said. “I’m blessed that Speed Stick gave me the opportunity to share my journey up until this point. Hopefully it continues to get even better as I continue to grow as a person and as an athlete. It’s definitely surreal to get opportunity to work with these guys like Speed Stick to get these types of endorsements. But at the end of the day, it still matters what you do and how you represent yourself as a person and as an athlete. I still have a lot of work to do, but it’s definitely been a blessing that they’ve allowed me to share my story and my journey. Hopefully, like I said, it continues to keep getting better.”
When tight ends like Tony Gonzalez, Jimmy Graham or Antonio Gates make plays in the NFL, there seems to be some sort of rule that an announcer must always reference the fact that they played basketball. Seriously, has Jimmy Graham ever caught a touchdown without an announcer mentioning the phrase “former basketball player?” It doesn’t happen. It gets mentioned every single time the guy scores. And he’s scored 51 touchdowns in five NFL seasons. This only seems to apply to offensive players though. I asked Rollins what skills he honed on the court that could make him a defensive difference-maker on the football field.
“Man-to-man defense in basketball,” Rollins said. “That helps me tremendously in man-to-man coverage on the football field as far as my feet go. In basketball, it’s all about your feet. Sliding and moving your feet. It’s the same in football, but in the NFL you can’t put your hands on a guy past five yards. So that’s definitely been one of the most vital things. And then as far as end zone coverage and being point guard, you got to see the whole floor. That’s allowed me, in end zone coverage, to open up and get back to my natural instincts of being a point guard and seeing everything that’s going on and see the big picture. And anticipation. As a point guard, you got to always be a play ahead. It helps in football, too. I can anticipate things and just see it happen before it does happen. Also, having that next play mentality. As a point guard, you’re going to make mistakes. You’re going to have turnovers. You’re going to have bad plays. But just like in football, you might get beat on a catch, but you got to have that next play mentality. You can’t have your head down, because it’s most likely going to come right back at you so you got to be prepared for it.”
Some scouts have projected Rollins as a safety in the NFL. Does he have a position preference for the next level?
“I really don’t care where I play at” he said, “whether it be nickel, outside, inside, back end safety. I’m just ready to get somewhere, learn the system and get going.”
So why defense? Rollins played running back at Wilmington High School in Ohio. He had a chance to play running back in college as well, but Rollins chose defense because of the upside potential at the professional level.
“When I gave coach Martin my film,” Rollins said, “he obviously saw me at running back in high school. He gave me the option, when we sat down and met, he said you can play offense or you can chose defense. After going over the pros and cons for each, I felt defense was going to be better, especially for longevity purposes. Running backs really don’t play that long in the NFL, as opposed to corners. With my size and my athletic ability, I chose the more elite position. It’s valued more. So I figured that was the best route for me to go.”
Smart move, especially with his existing skill set. Big ballin’ tight ends who have size, can get separation and handle the ball in the paint/endzone have certainly become a thing in the NFL. But this could be another trend worth watching. The Packers took Rollins in the second round this year, but last season they selected Baylor CB Demetri Goodson in the sixth. Goodson was also a point guard who didn’t have a ton of football experience in college (he played basketball at Gonzaga). The emergence of highly athletic, ball-hawkish point guards in the secondary is worth monitoring. Especially when these top-flight athletes are making the conscience business decision to apply their skills at a premium position that tends to attract big money.
Basketball and football are obviously different. Sure, the similarities help a guy like Rollins, but he appreciates the differences as well.
“I love the way teams bond together, but that’s what was different. With basketball, we were a very close team, but you look at the work that a football team puts in, it’s totally different. Like how you can get a hundred guys all on the same page, working hard and everything. There’s just something about that that’s special,” he said.
At the end of the day, Rollins just loves to make plays. And big plays can be a lot bigger on the football field than on the basketball court.
“In basketball, there’s a lot of possessions. In football, the possessions are limited. So any time you get the opportunity to make a game-changing play to impact the game in a vital way,” he said, “it’s something special.”
Talking with Rollins, it’s clear that he loves football.
“Everything that comes with the game, I enjoy,” Rollins said. “I actually didn’t realize I missed it that much until I got back out there on the field again. I mean, there’s nothing like Friday night lights, obviously, but Saturdays are special, too. And I’m looking forward to see what Sundays are like.”
Ah, Burgers and beers. They go together like peas and carrots. Like peanut butter and jelly. Or football and Sundays. This winning food and beverage combo forms the bedrock of the American belly. It’s what most of us are made of, really.
We already told you about the announcement of the Bud and Burgers Championship. It’s is a three-month nationwide competition where amateur chefs will compete at major festivals across the country. The winner will take home $100,000 to jumpstart their culinary career. The winning chef will also be invited to compete in a new cooking competition show on the Esquire Network.
Last week, I got to experience the higher end of this fine Bud and burger pairing at an exclusive dinner hosted by Budweiser and Chef David Chang. Before Chef Chang was introduced, the folks from Budweiser announced the upcoming burger competition with the bold claim that the burger was first unveiled to the world at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. This meant that burgers and Budweiser were joined at the hip from the get-go.
I decided to look into this a bit, and it turns out the 1904 World’s Fair was a pretty big deal. The origins of the burger in America are a bit murky, but one thing’s for sure, people were probably chomping on burgers and sipping Budweiser during in St. Louis in 1904.
Also known as the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, the 1904 World’s Fair in St Louis lasted for seven months. Sixty-three countries participated in the expo and over 19 million people attended. The first Olympics ever held in the US took place during that summer in St. Louis. Geronimo was on display in a teepee. Helen Keller gave a lecture. Max Weber was there. TS Elliott wrote a short story about his expo experience for his high school newspaper. Jack Daniel and his Tennessee whiskey were awarded a gold medal at the World’s Fair, something that’s still advertised on every Jack Daniel’s bottle.
Was it the first time the world was introduced to hamburgers? Hard to say, but if you believe different accounts, it was arguably the first time people were introduced to things like Dr. Pepper, peanut butter, cotton candy and the waffle cone, too.
So yea, a lot went down at the world’s fair that year, but let’s get back to burgers in 2015, specifically the burger that was served at the dinner that kicked off this whole Bud and Burgers Championship thing last week in Santa Monica.
Too often a premium burger has too much going on. If you can’t hold it in one hand and put it in your mouth, is it really still a burger at that point? I say no. But i’m a simple man. Chef Chang’s burger recipe was simple by design.
“Keep it simple,” Chang said. “Simple is hard to do.”
And simple it was. Simply delicious. Here’s the recipe:
- Short rib beef blend (or at least a 80/20 lean/fat blend)
- American Cheese Slices
- Hamburger Buns
- 2 TBSP Neutral, High heat Oil
- Bread & Butter Pickles
- Cast Iron Skillet
How You’ll Make It
- Ask your butcher for a short rib blend (16oz will make four 4oz burgers). If you can’t get a short rib blend, make sure ou get a blend that has 20-30% at content
- Form the patties. Measure/estimate out 4oz portion and form into 1/4” thick patties
- Season liberally with salt on each side
- Add oil to cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat
- Cook patties for 3 minutes on each side. During the last minute, add one slice of cheese to the patty and a dab of butter to the pan. Baste burger until cheese is melted and set aside on a cooking rack to rest
- In the same pan, toast buns face down until golden brown
- To assemble the burger, place the patty on the bun, dress with bread and butter pickles to taste and top with the other side of the bun
What’s this, you ask? No veggies?
“If you want vegetables,” Chang said, “eat a salad.”
The no frills burger was perfect. The short rib provided the proper fat balance, it was just salty enough, and the pickles were a nice crunchy complement. Did it look pretty? Not really, but who cares? Taste should dictate success in any burger sampling exercise, and the taste quality was off the charts. Pair it all with a frosty Budweiser Signature Draught, and you get a room full of happy people. The bud and burger combo wasn’t complicated. It was familiar and user-friendly, and according to Chef Chang, that’s all part of the appeal.
“Cooking Zeitgeist is changing,” Chang said. “The burger is the perfect example of where food is going. You’re doing something delicious that’s also accessible.”
Think you got a winning burger concept? Submit a photo or video of your burger creation to Budweiser.com/burger to see if you can score a festival invite and a chance to compete in the final burger battle at the Budweiser Brewery in St Louis. Good luck, burger lovers!