10 Questions with Warren Bobrow

Happy International Talk Like a Pirate Day! To celebrate we’ve got a special interview with author and “Cocktail Whisperer” Warren Bobrow all about rum!

1. How did you get involved with the world of cocktails and spirits?

Originally I trained to be a chef- This was back in the mid-1980’S- before recorded time really. I owned and founded a fresh pasta biz down In Charleston, SC- I lost it in Hurricane Hugo in 1989. I had bartended a few times while working as a cook- And it seemed like a good job for someone like myself who has the ‘Gift of Gab’… Fast forward past a 20-year career in banking- Back to my 50th birthday- when I went over to the Ryland Inn, located in NJ- and asked for a job as a bartender. Chris James, the Bar Manager told me he didn’t need a bartender, but he did need a bar back (not a glamorous job) and I was hired. But I had been writing about spirits, wine and food for a couple years- but I really had no idea just how hard it was! Physical Labor! Long Hours! Not Pretty! I held on for a year- and built my chops. How many cocktail writers do you know who worked as a bartender? Very few- and fewer still started at the bottom and worked their way up.

2. What is rum? How is it different from other spirits?

Rum is a fermented spirit not unlike whiskey or beer. the base ingredient, however is not grain. It is made from either sugar cane or molasses, or a combination of many sugar based ingredients- sometimes with the addition of caramel coloring and other synthetic ingredients. This is manipulated rum- unfortunately the backbone of the rum industry are industrially produced rums with profit as the motivating factor over quality. Raw rum or natural rum is much harder to find- and therefore these rums command higher prices.

Agricultural- or Agricole is made with freshly crushed or pressed sugar cane juice- is vastly different than industrially produced, molasses based rum.

3. Sometimes rum is spelled “rum” and other times “rhum”, is there a difference?

There is a massive difference. rhum- can be Agricole (Agricultural) or Industrial (Industrial). Agricole is made with freshly crushed sugar cane. The law (AOC, Appellation original Controlee) in the French islands reads that rhum agricole must be made with unfermented, freshly pressed cane juice. Industrial Rum on the other hand can be made pretty much any way possible, because it is treated as an industrial product. there isn’t a whole lot of oversight as to what is permissible in rum. With artificial coloring, added sugar and glycerin in the batch- there are very few correlations between Industrial and agricultural. Other than the base ingredient- which is, of course sugar cane! Small amounts of rum are also made from sorgum or sugar beets, but this stuff just sucks. I cannot stand the taste of this industrial spirit. Ick!

4. Do you know why we always associate rum with pirates?

Rum was an inexpensive product made with ingredients that just happened to grow incredibly well in poor soil and anemic water conditions that existed in the Caribbean Islands. Sugar cane propagates almost anywhere in both poor and rich soil. The juice is very easy to boil into a syrup that is treated to an industrial bread yeast- then, it is fermented and distilled in crudely built, copper pot stills. The result, a foul- ill-tempered spirit was just the liquid for an unwashed and stinking bunch of murderous thugs who would slaughter your crippled grandmother as easily as lighting a pipe filled with the local wacky weed. It wasn’t tobacco in their pipes you know! It was cannabis!

Wine spoiled quickly in the high heat and humidity of the Caribbean Islands, beer would sour in the high heat and whiskey wasn’t invented yet and vodka was not available in this part of the world. Gin was popular- but not as a commodity, it was a medicinal.

Sugar was a luxury item-coveted by the wealthy. Rum was easily made with the dregs left over from making sugar and is extremely durable stuff. In a barrel, it only gets better in the motion of the sea and the heat of the sun. Like the highly expensive, Madeira- (Truly enduring stuff that goes around the world on the deck of a ship to age), Rum is potent and healing and cheap!

To a pirate, it was an easy high and made weeks or months in the doldrums (the place without wind) easier to take. Being a pirate was not always attractive work. Rum made it a bit easier to chew off your foes ear or shoot all his horses before having one’s way with their women and then the children. Rum was liquid courage in the face of a wall of water in a storm, or against cannon fire at close range. Rum is refreshment after a voyage or as inner calm during a battle.

Against seasickness, rum works well as it settles the head and soothes the belly, for medicinal purposes only of course!

5. What’s your favorite way to drink rum?

Preferably in a clean glass, with a bit of coconut water ice (for anyone who has gotten stomach poisoning from bad ice) and a slice of caribbean lime plus a splash of cane sugar syrup. A Ti-Punch is what this wonderfully tasty drink is named.

6. If you were serving rum to a salty sailor, how would you serve it?

Being a salty sailor myself- I learned about rum from the stern of my Family’s Little Harbor Sailboat, so I prefer it two ways- One way it (the Ti-Punch) is made with a squeeze of lime, cane sugar syrup and rhum Agricole from Martinique. The other is a concoction named the Painkiller, liberally shaken until frosty with crushed coconut water ice, cream of coconut, fresh pineapple juice and plenty of bourbon barrel aged rum. (Naturally colored-no caramel added- maybe something from Long Pond or Monymusk- or one of the fine rums from Foursquare)

Quite refreshing after a tough sail with the sun and sweat burning your eyes and skin.

7. In honor of International Talk Like a Pirate Day, what is your favorite pirate-y phrase?

Yar Pirates!

8. You’ve authored several books at this point, any chance of one coming out will be about rum?

That’s a very good question. I have not now pitched one to my publishers- but you never know.

9. What projects are you currently working on?

I’m currently writing for Forbes.com and other work for the American Distilling Institute, Barrell Bourbon, Total Food Service and DrinkUpNY, along with many publications on the cannabis side of this medicinal (Folk Healing) business.

10. Parting shot! Ask us at the Magical Buffet any one question.

Do you prefer heavy, sweet rums to naturally made, unsweetened rums crafted from a dunder- Read: Wild Yeast/Authentic…?

I prefer unsweetened rums, but I do enjoy the heavy, sweet ones too.

About Warren Bobrow:
Warren Bobrow, the Cocktail Whisperer, is the author of “Apothecary Cocktails: Restorative Drinks from Yesterday and Today”, “Whiskey Cocktails: Rediscovered Classics and Contemporary Craft Drinks”, “Bitters and Shrub Syrup Cocktails: Restorative Vintage Cocktails, Mocktails & Elixirs”, “Cannabis Cocktails, Mocktails & Tonics: The Art of Spirited Drinks & Buzz-Worthy Libations”. His most recent book is named: “The Craft Cocktail Compendium, Contemporary Interpretations and inspired twists on time honored classics”.

Bobrow has written articles for Saveur magazine, Voda magazine, Whole Foods-Dark Rye, The American Distilling Institute, Beverage Media, DrinkupNY and many other national and global periodicals.

He has written for SoFAB Magazine at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum and has written restaurant reviews for New Jersey Monthly. He has also contributed to the Sage Encyclopedia of Food Issues and the Oxford Encyclopedia edition: Savoring Gotham: A Food Lover’s Companion to New York City. Warren recently traveled to Asheville, NC to participate in their Cocktail Week. Warren attends Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans and was nominated for a Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Award in 2013. Warren was in the Saveur Magazine “100” in 2010 and was a Ministry of Rum Judge in 2010. He most recently appeared in High Times Magazine and contributes to The Fresh Toast in Seattle.

10 Questions with Tess Whitehurst

1. Out of all the themes for oracle decks, why flowers?

In my work with them, I’ve found that flowers are living sacred geometry, and that they’re completely attuned to vibration and emotion. Simply placing our attention on them and opening up to them allows us to receive an instant energy healing and wisdom infusion that is both gentle and thorough. I’ve also found that they don’t have to be physically present in order for us to receive these benefits: like angels or totem animals, we can draw upon their essence to gain insight and spiritual guidance. Plus, they’re beautiful! So they seemed, to me, the perfect choice.

2. In the introduction to the companion book you mention having spent a year communing with flowers. What did that entail?

I bought a membership to Descanso Gardens, which is a truly magical botanical garden in the foothills of Los Angeles. Then, 2-3 times a week, I spent time with the flowers, relaxing and opening up to their energy one at a time. Once a flower’s gentle wisdom and vibrational signature began to take shape for me, I translated it into English and wrote it down. That was the main research process for my book The Magic of Flowers, which was the precursor to the deck.

3. You discuss the cumulative benefits of working with the Magic of Flowers Oracle, versus perhaps a book. Why is that?

Magical consciousness speaks in the language of symbol, and by working with meaningful imagery, over time, it becomes a part of our own personal energy field. Connecting the wisdom with the images – particularly when the wisdom is relating to your own life – makes inroads into your magical and spiritual intelligence in ways that go beyond the simple accumulation of information.

4. How did you end up working with the artist Anne Wertheim on this?

Barbara Moore – the tarot and oracle acquisitions editor at Llewellyn – got me in touch with her. …And I’m so lucky she did, because I absolutely love the way Anne brought life to my ideas.

5. What influence did she have on the deck?

Besides creating absolutely breathtaking art for every single card, she also helped talk out some of my ideas and helped fine tune my visions in marvelous ways.

6. What is your favorite piece of art she created for the oracle?

The mermaid card! Also known as the Wisteria card. With every card, I chose images that spoke to my energetic experience of each flower, rather than the purely physical experience of them. So, obviously, wisteria doesn’t grow underwater! But it certainly feels watery, soft, fluid, and ethereal in precisely the way the mermaid card does. It is so wisteria energy! But I have to say that I have a lot of favorites. Lilac, Magnolia, Camellia, Bougainvillea, and Hydrangea are a few of my others.

7. What was the hardest part of creating the Magic of Flowers Oracle?

Before this project, I had never created anything visual before: all my previous projects were traditional books. So learning how to communicate my inner visions clearly was a new challenge for me. But for the most part, the process went surprisingly smoothly.

8. If there is one thing you hope people learn from using the Magic of Flowers Oracle, what would it be?

Always be gentle with yourself. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the flowers, navigating the changes of life never needs to be harsh, scary, or self-condemning. And in fact, everything always works better we’re sweet to ourselves.

9. Do you have any upcoming projects my readers should be on the lookout for?

Thanks for asking! Yes, sometime in 2016, look for a reference book about the magical properties of trees. The title isn’t set yet, but it may very well be The Magic of Trees.

10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question.

Oh ok, fun! What are your feelings on My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic? (It’s my favorite show.)

I actually have never watched it. I was never really a My Little Pony gal so I haven’t checked it out. However I DO love cartoons! I get ready for work most mornings with the Powerpuff Girls playing in the background and curl up for naps with Danger Mouse. And then there’s Futurama, Codename: Kids Next Door, Family Guy, Adventure Time, American Dad, Invader Zim…

About Tess Whitehurst:
An award winning author, feng shui consultant, and intuitive counselor, Tess presents ancient, sacred, and empowering wisdom in a friendly, joyful, and accessible way. In addition to creating the Magic of Flowers Oracle, she’s written six books that have been translated into nine languages, and her articles have appeared such places as Writer’s Digest, Whole Life Times, and Law of Attraction magazine. She’s appeared on morning news shows on both Fox and NBC, and her feng shui work was featured on the Bravo TV show “Flipping Out.” You can learn more at: http://www.tesswhitehurst.com/

10 Questions with John A. Gronbeck-Tedesco, PhD

1. For readers too young to even remember breaking off relations with Cuba. Can you give a brief explanation as to why America decided to sever diplomatic ties with Cuba and put in place the trade and travel embargo?

The United States cut off diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1961 because Washington was suspicious of Fidel Castro and feared that Cuba would become a communist nation. This was the period of the Cold War, when U.S. leaders and the general public were consumed with curbing the power of the Soviet Union, especially in the Americas. While initially Cuba was not communist, the nation opened trade deals with the U.S.S.R. and refused to bow to U.S. commercial demands and political expectations. President Eisenhower approved a CIA plan to remove Castro from power in what would become the Bay of Pigs in April of that year. Tensions mounted and U.S.-Cuban ties were cut.

2. After that, what have relations been like between the United States and Cuba?

Overall they have been rocky, at least in official terms. The October Missile Crisis in 1962 revealed that U.S.-Cuban animosity could escalate to near world war. The CIA continued attempted assassinations of Fidel Castro. By the late 1960s, there was a cool dynamic of non-communication and non-interaction. President Jimmy Carter attempted some form of reconciliation, but in the end this failed. There has been a steady stream of Cubans immigrating to the United States, to the degree that nearly 2 million Latinos claim Cuban heritage today. There also has been a history of Americans traveling to Cuba in defiance of the embargo for humanitarian, academic, or political reasons. Part of what my upcoming book shows is that Cuba was a resource-rich nation for Left politics in the United States during the 1960s and early 1970s.

Cuba – Photo – John A. Gronbeck-Tedesco
3. You traveled to Cuba multiple times as an academic while the trade and travel embargo were in place. What was that like?

It was interesting and fulfilling in so many ways. Without proper relations in place, things become much more difficult for Americans. Remember that there is still no U.S. banking in Cuba, so I had to do everything with cash – no travelers checks or credit cards. But these difficulties were not insurmountable and they made the human connections that much more important and heartfelt. People opened their homes, possessions, and knowledge to me. Most Cubans I came to know always had time for a conversation and coffee. The hospitality I received—from people with little to give—was at times extraordinary and showed that populations from countries at odds with one another still could have decent humane interactions.

4. What did it appear life was like for the average Cuban while living under the U.S. embargo?

For the average Cuban, life was (and still is) difficult. “No es fácil” (It’s not easy) is something you hear often around Havana. If one is able to work in proximity to tourists or has additional income from remittances from friends and family living overseas, then his or her life can be better. But for those relying on the government system alone, day-to-day life can be quite encumbering.

5. How did cultural exchanges, perhaps the best known being the Buena Vista Social Club franchise affect Cuba’s relationship with the West?

There has been a constant stream of tourism to Cuba, including from the United States, so when the film came out more tourists were requesting these songs. Cubans found this humorous because this style of music was older, from the 1930s and 1940s, but tourists wanted these songs. So Cuban musicians rediscovered these melodies in order to satisfy the tourist demand for them.

6. And how did academic exchanges, like your experiences and Cuba offering medical training to Americans, influence their relationship with the West?

Cultural and academic exchanges have been hugely important to maintaining some sort of link between countries. A lot of Americans do not know that some of their fellow citizens have trained to become doctors in Cuba. The academic friendships I made have been the foundation to my field of study and my current career. These are avenues of dialogue that have succeeded where traditional government channels have failed.

7. Now the Obama administration wants to re-establish diplomatic ties with Cuba, including a U.S. embassy in Cuba, and the recently opened Cuban embassy in Washington D.C. and a large portion of America flips out. Republicans, Democratic, progressives, and conservatives. What’s going on there?

Actually, for many years now most Americans have favored normalization of ties with Cuba and a repeal of the embargo. A recent Florida International University poll disclosed that now even the majority of Cuban-Americans favor reestablishing diplomatic ties and overturning the embargo. The issue is that the pro-embargo constituency is strong and well connected. They have reliable representation in Congress and still enjoy economic and political influence.

8. Do the guys flipping out have valid points?

Yes they do. One of the main points of contention is human rights violations in Cuba. Political imprisonment, limited access to free speech and information (like internet), political intimidation—there are many things Cubans have to live with that most democratic governments, the U.S. included, do not support. However, anti-embargo people say that the embargo has not forced the Cuban government to abide by U.S. standards of leadership. Normalizing relations has a better chance of doing this because the Cuban government realizes that it will have to make concessions in order to have a fruitful relationship with the United States and with other nations in the hemisphere. In fact, Havana has already made some favorable changes in recent years. Finally, by repealing the embargo, the United States will be conforming to the desires of the international community. In 2013 the UN General Assembly voted 188-2 in favor of the United States ending the embargo. Only the U.S. and Israel voted no. It was the 22nd year in a row that the UN has voted this way.

9. So seriously, where does this leave me with getting a bottle of Havana Club Rum at my local liquor store?

That might be some time, yet. However, people have been bringing back Cuban rum into the United States for years, so it depends on the connections of your local spirits guru.

10. Parting Shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question.

Is there any room for Cuban food on this buffet?

Oh absolutely! Cuban Sandwich? So good! Frita, the Cuban hamburger sounds delicious. Always room for more food at this buffet!

About John A. Gronbeck-Tedesco:
John A. Gronbeck-Tedesco, PhD, became interested in Cuban history when he studied in Spain during his junior year in college. He entered the PhD program in American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin (UT), and after his first (of four) visit to Cuba as a graduate student, decided to make it a part of his specialization. Toward the end of his graduate study, Dr. Gronbeck-Tedesco was awarded UT’s most prestigious dissertation fellowship.

He is currently an Associate Professor and Convener of American Studies at Ramapo College of New Jersey. Dr. Gronbeck-Tedesco has presented at several conferences outside of the United States and is among the growing number of scholars committed to international and transnational studies.

He is the author of the forthcoming book, “Cuba, the United States, and Cultures of the Transnational Left, 1930-1975” (Cambridge University Press, October 2015) and has been published in academic journals and different online forums including Journal of American Studies, Journal of Latin American Studies, Studies in Latin American Popular Culture, American Quarterly, CounterPunch.org, TheHill.com, Truth-out.org.

9 Questions with Gabriela Emma Olivera

1. When did you discover jewelry design?
I always liked this kind of jewelry and the mysticism that goes around them.

2. What made you decide to design purses as well as jewelry? (Or was it the other way around and you did bags first and then decided to do jewelry?)
The bag goes after for a women it’s a must and complements the style.

3. What inspired the Khalama collection?
The unknown of the different cultures, the different stones, metal, seeds, that they have to be together in a perfect and unique way.

4. Can you take my readers through the process of how a piece of jewelry goes from being a design to a piece for sale?
One day when I start to make the first necklaces I explain to a friend of mine that I have to be inspired, and she told me yes… because it’s like a paint or a sculpture it’s a unique combination, it take me some times minutes, sometimes hours and may be days. It’s incredible that in one day I could make four five complete. The women who wear it have to feel that it’s a beautiful combination of the beads, stones, some times wool, everything, cultures, religions. Every women has a color to match not just with the cloth, it has to match her… When I finish them there’s some very good people who cooperate on this journey. They take the pictures then uploaded them to the web, make the social media and all the work to sell them.

5. Do you feel the stones and materials you use provide a particular energy to the jewelry?
I feel that the combination of the materials, specially the stones and the person who wear it make a combination and creates an energy around them on all the paths that can be.

Bracelet from Khalama Collection

6. What is one of your favorite pieces and why?
I love the Amethysts because my country Uruguay is one of the majors origins of them. They have a spectacular color and for who believe the energy of the stones protect you and give a positive energy.

7. When not wearing your jewelry, what is some of your favorite jewelry to wear?
I like the silver a lot and the pre-Columbian gold.

8. When you’re not working on the Khalama collection, what else do you like to do?
I have another two companies so I have a lot of work to do, one of logistics and the restaurant so I love to cook!! I read and I have to boys that are my life. I have to take care of them and I spend time with them.

Bag from Khalama Collection

9. What else can my readers look forward to from you and/or Khalama?
Look for a combination of nature with, seeds, wool, stones, and much color.

About Gabriela Emma Olivera & Khalama:
When Miami-based designer Gabriela Emma Olivera envisioned her handbag and hi-end accessories line Khalama, she planned on a brand high in spiritual wealth and abundant with cultural richness: beautiful and boundless with beads imported from such countries as Morocco, Colombia, Peru, Tibet, Uruguay, and India, the extensive Khalama line lends itself to a unique cross-continental interconnectedness rarely found in fashion.

Clinging most closely to it’s Tibetan meaning of “Sky Path”, Khalama’s spiritual energies echo lotus flowers, koi fish, Buddha, and Lord Ganesh while drawing energy from natural stones and organic materials including turquoise stones, lapis lazuli, amber, and coral. The Khalama Collection expresses the natural and spiritual.

73 Questions with Victoria Beckham

Vogue magazine regularly does these fast paced 73 question interview videos. Obviously I don’t share them all on The Magical Buffet. Honestly I don’t even watch them all myself. However I was a bit intrigued when “73 Questions with Victoria Beckham” popped up in my inbox. I thought there might be potential considering Victoria’s long, winding and intertwining path with popular culture. She was a Spice Girl, managed to marry one of the only soccer players Americans had ever heard of and an icon in England, David Beckham, and pulled off what some thought would be impossible, became a respected fashion designer.

What I had not counted on was Beckham having such an amazing wit. Some of her answers were just too much fun. I’ll admit, some were pretty obvious, and few made her come off a bit, snobbish maybe, but when she hits her groove I’m suddenly thinking, “I want to get sloppy drunk on Cosmos with this bitch and hear ALL the dirt on the London scene.”

For those of you who are curious, you can spend 6 minutes with Victoria Beckham right here.

73 Questions with Daniel Radcliffe

Vogue magazine has a web series called “73 Questions”. As you might suspect involves asking someone 73 questions. In the past they’ve featured Sarah Jessica Parker and Olivia Munn, which I didn’t bother mentioning to you guys. However when I received notice of the episode “73 Questions with Daniel Radcliffe” I thought that some of you might want to know about it. Particularly since at the very end he reveals a dirty little secret about Harry Potter.

So for those of you who want to see Daniel Radcliffe play some ping pong, talk movies, and give facial hair advice, this video is for you.

10 More Questions with Sasha Graham

1. First, may we still refer to you as the Tarot Diva even though your latest tarot book is “365 Tarot Spreads” and not diva related?

Of course!

2. Your book launch party for “365 Tarot Spreads” was sponsored by Barrows Intense Ginger Liqueur. I’ve never heard of any tarot author getting sponsored by such a fabulous sounding sponsor. Tell us how the sponsorship came about and how the party went.

The innovator of Barrows Intense Ginger Liqueur is a good friend, Josh Morton. http://barrowsintense.com/ He’s enjoyed wild success with Barrows, throwing tastings around the country. Since I was planning on wine, cheese and snacks, I thought the Barrows would be a great addition. Plus, I liked having the magical energy of ginger on hand. It heated things up!

The party was glorious. I host lots of parties at my place in the mountains. I planned the evening like a garden party except it was at the event space of the fabulous Namaste Bookshop in NYC with tarot thrown in!

3. Why did you decide to do a book with 365 unique, different tarot spreads?

I thought about a daily spread book because I wanted to buy one. When I realized there wasn’t one out there, I knew I had to write it!! It was such a fun challenge to see if I could pull it off. Plus, tarot is a daily practice for so many readers, it seemed an obvious thing to write since it hadn’t been done.

4. On each day you highlight a piece of history that influenced what the spread for that day is. How did you decide what historical tidbit to use?

I had specific criteria as I pieced it together. First, I found all holidays. Then, I looked for every important date in Tarot history I could find. I wanted to use everyone who has contributed to tarot history. Birthdays of tarot luminaries like Pamela Coleman Smith or Aleister Crowley. Events in Tarot’s history. I wanted the readers to learn about tarot as they performed the spreads. I found correlations with the occult, the Victorian era, anything gothic and ghosty felt very right. I included Greek and roman festivals, gods and goddesses when I could. I included artists and writers because true art is supernatural and artists are shaman in their own right. I included universal stories, fairy tales and popular films that almost anyone would be familiar with.

5. Did you pick something special for your birthday, because I would?

Everyone picks up the book and goes straight to see their birthday spread! Mine birthday falls on Halloween! The Halloween spread is massive. It looks at the 12 months ahead, considers personal magic and reflects on what you should embrace and reject.

6. What’s one of your favorite spreads from the book?

That’s like asking which is my favorite child! My daughter’s favorite is the Indiana Jones Spread. Hmmmm … one of the most useful spreads that really helped me through a tough time was a spread I created when I was having a difficult time communicating with my sister whom I love dearly. I named it the Sibling Issues Spread but really it can be used for any relationship you are struggling in. It changed the trajectory of our communication and things got better quickly. This is tarot at its BEST!

Cast Your Cards

1. The situation.
2. What I’m feeling.
3. What they are feeling.
4. What I see that they don’t.
5. What they see that I don’t.
6. What is truly possible for the two of us.
7. What action can I take to heal the relationship?

7. What’s one of your favorite historical tidbits from the book?

Random and fascinating was the Battle of Los Angeles! Right after US entrance to WW2, in 1942, there were objects spotted in the sky. Some thought enemy fire, others thought UFO’s, an air raid was called, shots fired, seven people actually perished. The incident was deemed a false alarm though many suspected a UFO cover up.

I turned that date into a tarot spread about personal defensiveness.

8. What are you working on next?

I just signed a contract with Llewellyn for my next book but I’m keeping the subject under wraps for now …

9. Any chance of a Tarot Diva Tarot Deck coming out one day?

Not that I know of 🙂

10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question.

Mmmmm, fall is in the air! What are you most looking forward to as the air turns crisp and the witching season is approaching?

I’m kind of meh on autumn because it means winter is on the way, and I am not a fan. However I do love the Celebrate Samhain event that takes place every October, so I must accept fall if I want to go to Celebrate Samhain.

About Sasha Graham:
Sasha Graham teaches tarot classes and produces tarot events at New York City’s premiere cultural institutions, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She has shared her love of tarot on film, television, radio and print. She lives in New York City. Visit her blog at http://tarotdiva.wordpress.com/.

10 Questions with Dr. Penny Sartori

1. How do you define a near death experience?

It is an experience that some people report following a close brush with death. The experience follows a pattern of common components that were originally defined by Dr Raymond Moody in his book Life After Life in 1975. Common components include hearing the news of being close to death, travelling down a dark tunnel towards a bright light, a panoramic life review, an out of body experience, meeting deceased relatives / friends, meeting a ‘Being of Light’, being sent back to life, a barrier or a point of no return.
Each NDE is unique and not all components occur in every NDE.

2. What inspired you to study near death experiences (NDEs)?

It was an encounter with a dying patient I was looking after when I worked as a nurse in the ICU that inspired me to study NDEs. That encounter made me realize that we really do not understand death so I wanted to have a greater understanding of the dying process to that no other patient would have to undergo such a prolonged and undignified death as that patient who inspired my studies.

3. How has the medical establishment responded to your work studying NDEs?

At first the medical establishment was a little skeptical but as my research progressed they could see that it was ultimately going to benefit patients so they became very interested and supportive of my research. When my research had completed my medical colleagues were very interested and I was asked to present papers at medical conferences to disseminate my research findings.

4. Have you found that age affects the NDE?

No, NDEs can occur in people of all ages even young children who have no concept of death.

5. Do varying cultures affect the NDE?

Yes, the NDEs are influenced by the person’s culture. For example people in the West are more likely to report images of Jesus whereas people from India are more likely to report images of Yamdoots, messengers of Yama the god of the dead or Chitragupta the man with the book of deeds.

6. How are deathbed visions (end of life experiences) different from NDEs?

The deathbed visions are more of a chronic phenomenon and can occur over a few days. As the person gets closer to death so the visions may increase in frequency. Deathbed visions usually begin within a week or a few days before the person dies. NDEs occur spontaneously and occur in a matter of seconds.

7. How do NDEs affect the people who have them?

Many people are profoundly affected by their NDE in many different ways including psychologically, physiologically, spiritually and sociologically.

Their values may change drastically – so much that there can be a high divorce rate in people who have had an NDE. They are less materialistic and simple things in life like spending time with their family or spending time in nature takes priority to their previous lifestyle which may have been very money orientated. Many change careers from a highly paid job to doing voluntary work or working in the caring profession.

Some people have changes in their electromagnetic field and can’t wear a wrist watch or find that electrical items malfunction in their presence.

Some people feel that their religious belief is strengthened whereas others feel that they become more spiritual as opposed to religious. People are generally more compassionate, loving and respectful towards others and also have a heightened awareness of ecological issues.

8. Can you tell my readers a little bit about the 5 year study you did on NDEs?

When I worked as a nurse in the ICU for 5 years I interviewed patients who had survived a close brush with death. I came across 15 people who reported an NDE. I wanted to investigate if the NDE could have been caused by lack of oxygen, the drugs that we give to the patients or due to wishful thinking.

I didn’t find any cause for the NDE – for example one patient reported an NDE while unconscious but at the time he was fully ventilated and receiving high levels of oxygen and his vital signs were monitored throughout and his oxygen levels in his blood were normal. Some patients reported an NDE and had not been given any drugs at the time.

Some patients reported unpleasant NDEs which would not suggest that these are not merely wishful thinking.

I came across some very interesting examples where what the patients reported could not be dismissed or explained away. Patient 10 reported an out of body experience where he accurately reported the actions of the nurse, doctor and physiotherapist – at the time he was deeply unconscious and his eyes were closed. I know what he reported was accurate because I was the nurse looking after him at the time. I’ve nursed thousands of unconscious patients during my 21 year nursing career but no other patient has described an experience in so much detail and with such accuracy. As patients regain consciousness they are very disorientated and groggy and quite vague for some hours and even days yet this patient was very clear and precise about what he experienced as soon as he regained consciousness.

9. Why is it important that we study NDEs?

I think it is crucial that we continue to study NDEs in the clinical environment as they are giving us a different understanding of consciousness. Research in this field is now calling into question the premise that consciousness is produced by the brain. This will then lead us to other ways of investigating and understanding consciousness.

I think studying NDEs will also give us greater insight into the dying process so that we can better support patients as they are dying.

10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question.

Ooh, that’s a difficult one.

Ok, if you knew that today would be the last day of your life, would you be doing anything different right now?

Talk about difficult questions!

Probably, but not by much. Instead of sitting here typing while my husband is stretched out on the other couch I would probably shut off my laptop and cell phone and crawl over and curl up on the sofa with him.

About Dr. Penny Sartori:
Dr. Penny Sartori worked as an intensive care staff nurse for 17 years. She undertook the UK’s largest and first long term prospective study of near-death experiences (NDEs) and was awarded a PhD for her research in 2005. She is uniquely qualified as not only has she worked daily with dying patients for many years but she also has the benefit of undertaking doctoral research into NDEs.

Her second book, “The Wisdom of Near-Death Experiences: How Understanding NDEs Can Help Us Live More Fully” is published by Watkins Books. Whereas previous research has been unable to verify events that have been reported, more recent hospital research is showing that NDEs can no longer be dismissed as hallucinations or aberrations of a dying brain. Drawing from many instances throughout her nursing career coupled with many examples from people who have written to her over the years, she discusses that NDEs occur and have very real life changing effects and how, by trying to pathologize NDEs, the very important message that these people bring back has been overlooked. She reiterates that hearing what these people have to say can benefit us all without having to nearly die ourselves.

10 Questions with Peter Voelker

1. What is mead?
In short, mead is any fermented alcoholic beverage made using honey as the primary fermentable.

2. What makes Helderberg Mead different from other meads?
Most mead that you can buy in the wine stores around here either tastes like a low alcohol honey syrup or a nice soft white wine. While there’s nothing wrong with that (I love a nice Vidal Blanc), HMW takes a different approach. We use techniques that would have been used many moons ago and produce a mead that has big, bold and feral qualities to it. We’ve adapted old world methods to modern day sanitation and palettes without catering to any particular group of consumers. This is mead as we think it should be. With that said, there are 2 major differences between HMWs mead and others. The first is our alcohol content, which has a range on the label of 15% to 16%. Our current “Burgundy Wax” batch is at the high side of that range. Most others are from 8% to 11%. The second difference is our use of oak aging. Back in the days before metals were commonly available, oak would have been the preferred storage vessel for nearly all drinks. We have taken this concept and applied it to our mead. The result is a powerful mead (shouldn’t all traditional mead be POWERFUL?) with a whiskey-like nose and great honey flavor without being overly sweet.

3. Why did you decide to start selling your mead to the public?
After making mead for myself over the past 15 years or so, I was still very disappointed in the lack of commercial meads choices. They are all in the same family of taste, where ours is completely different. The initial investment to start small was small enough that we could finance it ourselves. Our hope all along was that there would be enough people out there who truly appreciate it for what it is. There are always those who are stuck in their little boxes, but it’s those who taste it and say “wow!” who make it worthwhile! Along with that, I also did not want to look back 10 years from now and wonder why I didn’t even try to go full production commercial.

4. Helderberg Meadworks makes several different varieties of mead. Can you explain their differences?
a. Heritage – this is our traditional mead, sometimes referred to as a “show mead” because it’s nothing more than honey and water. Sometimes the simple recipes are the most difficult to achieve because they hide NOTHING in other flavors.
b. Apple – A cyser in meadspeak. We have always been a fan of cysers. Prior to going commercial our second best mead was our own cyser, so logically this would be our next production mead. Introduced in October, the response has been outstanding!
c. Maple (TBD) – This is a mead that is still in the approval process. Following all appropriate federal and state regulations, we have numerous steps of approval before being able to sell it. Suffice it to say though, that we at HMW took a step back and looked at what we enjoy. We like NY and the northeast. We already have an apple mead, so the next step was to look at what else is something of a local pride product. Maple syrup! We are working with a local maple syrup producer to find the best tasting syrup to use in the production of our Maple Mead. Test batches of it are outstanding. Imagine the flavor of our mead followed by maple syrup filling your mouth without all the sweetness of drinking syrup.
d. ?????? Mead. This is going to be something rarely, if ever, done at production levels in the USA. I’m keeping it under wraps for now but it is very difficult to make and will be very unique. I hope to have it available by Fall 2014.

5. What’s the best way to drink mead; chilled, over iced, etc.?
Yep. 😀 Consumer’s choice. Our mead is an “outside the box” beverage so there really are no confines to how you are supposed like it. We encourage people to experiment and see how they like it best. Our preference? The Heritage at room temperature and the apple mead served COLD.

6. How does mead pair with food?
It makes an excellent marinade.

This is a difficult question to answer. We try to steer clear of questions that would be typical when discussing a wine. When we do festivals and tastings, we tell people to try it first THEN tell us what they think it would pair best with. The responses we get from people after they try it are all over the map with respect to what they would pair it with. Some find it as an after dinner honey port. Some think it’s great with poultry, others with a grilled steak. The best thing people can do is try it and decide for themselves. We always post when and where people can find and taste our mead before buying it, so watch our Facebook page if you want to try before you buy.

7. Your meadery has an awesome logo which is not only on your bottles but also on some cool looking t-shirts. How did the logo come about?
I have a friend in Maine who is a graphic designer, Jen Goodwin of Goodwin Glass and Graphics. She had done some of my homebrew mead labels for fun in the past, so I knew I wanted her to design the Heritage label. I gave her some of my ideas and things that I didn’t want. One of which was a Viking image. She sent me some design ideas, all of which were great but somehow didn’t strike me enough. Then she said she had a surprise with the caveat of “I know we weren’t going to use…” and it was done. That was design awesomeness right there. It set our mead apart on the shelf and gave us a whole design concept to work with. It’s a great mead and she gave us the look that gets people to notice it among the other bottles.

8. When not drinking mead, what do you enjoy drinking?
We like local wines and spirits above all. This is the hardest question to answer because there are too many to list! Some of our favorites are KyMar Mapple Jack, Thousand Islands Winery Frontenac (with a shot of cognac), Brimstone Hill Vidal Blanc, Bootlegger 21 Vodka, Warwick Valley Gin, Brookview Station Baco Noir and Cassis Port. We have a long standing favorite with Leonard Kreusch Kabinett Riesling. Plus I have a current fascination with absinthe on top of all that.

9. What’s next for Helderberg Meadworks?
Co-owner Kirsten is developing her own signature mead. All options are on the table for that! We are very excited about it.

Our ????? mead and of course more expansion! Every penny earned is invested back into the meadery. This winter we will be adding new and much larger tanks. Our production goal that we had planned on reaching at the 5 year mark will be achieved in year 2. It’s an amazing accomplishment and it reassures us that there are still people out there who can appreciate a quality craft.

10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question.
Just 1? I have to ask – what was it that drew your attention to our mead?

We at HMW are always looking for ways to reach great people that may not know about us and learning about our customers helps us to reach them better!

I got to try your mead at the New York State tastings at Exit 9 Wine and Liquor Warehouse. I enjoyed it and took your business card with me. At this point I’ve tried your Apple Mead and your Heritage Mead and they were both DELICIOUS!

About Peter Voelker and Helderberg Meadworks:
Helderberg Meadworks is one of a precious few “meaderies” in the state who only produce mead. Owner and meadmaker Peter Voelker has been making a variety of meads for many years. In 2010 he decided to open the meadery with his wife Kirsten to share what he considers the best mead in the country.

Our philosophy is to create a mead that is as close as possible to mead that may very well have been made hundreds, and even thousands of years ago, while using modern equipment and methods. We use minimal sulfites and minimal production handling. This means that each batch is unique. Every harvest of local honey is different, so every batch will taste a bit different. In order to differentiate batches for our customers, we plan to use a different color wax top.

10 Questions with Irina Shapiro

1. You’re originally from Russia, but you’ve been in the United States for a while now. Was it difficult adjusting to Miami after Moscow?

When I’m in Miami or Los Angeles, as a Russian I can feel like a stranger there. It is different, but I love Miami! It’s like a never ending party. My true inspirations are sunrises and sunsets there. I also love the clubs in Miami, it’s like energy lives there forever and people really enjoy it to the fullest. I did some performances in Miami and I loved it so much!

2. I hear there is quite a Russian dance music scene, have you had the chance to go back and be a part of it?

I’m currently located in Los Angeles working on my music, but I travel a lot to Moscow and am actually here right now :). Hopefully I will be performing here soon too.

3. How did you end up partnering with such a respected name as Dave Audé on “One Last Kiss”?

I love having positive, creative people around! Dave is an amazing person, great husband and father – I love and respect those qualities in a person!

“One Last Kiss” – Official Video

4. Were you excited to learn that both R3hab and Sick Individuals wanted to remix “One Last Kiss”?

These guys are so talented and I love their sound! They are energetic and very unique characters with unique personalities – I love that the most! I was freaking screaming!! haha!!!!!

“One Last Kiss” – R3hab Remix

“One Last Kiss” – Sick Individuals Remix

5. Is it weird hearing your song remixed?

I don’t think it’s weird because I love to work with other song writers too. It makes me feel like we are making history – so cool!

6. There is a lot choreography in the video for “One Last Kiss”, how hard was the video shoot?

It was a lot of work! But I have been dancing my entire life and love expressing myself through body language.

7. What kind of music do you enjoy dancing to?

I love rock music, Bon Jovi is my favorite rock musician. I came to the USA to do a rock project. Something like a Blonde Jovi in a sexy skirt :).

I also adore Kylie Minogue. She is real unbelievable – feminine woman, sexy diva. Icon!

8. The other day I was in a really rotten mood getting ready for work. While in the shower I started humming a tune and it cheered me up. That tune was “One Last Kiss”. No question, I just really wanted to tell you that.

9. What are you working on next that my readers can look forward to?

My next single to be released will be “Believe.” It’s a very spiritual song about our destiny, our stories—our past and future, our all or nothing! It’s about love and power of love, which can heal everything in this world! Empathy and perception!

You can also look out for a full length album soon!

10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question.

What is your favorite type of music? Do you have a favorite DJ?

I like all kinds of music depending on my mood. For dance/electronic, lately I’ve been listening to Swedish House Mafia’s “Until Now” album, Diplo, the album “18 Months” from Calvin Harris, everything from Robyn, and Madonna’s “Hard Candy” album”.

About Irina Shapiro:
Irina was born in the Russian capital of Moscow, with performing arts always at the center of her life. She began singing at the age of three, and was constantly involved in theater while in school. At the age of six, Irina sang in the school choir as a mezzo-soprano and started to learn English.

At 18, Irina attended a university in Russia, acquiring her first degree in economics and second in psychology. Though she was busy with her studies, she managed to find time for what she describes as a “hobby.” For many years, she had written poems, but now Irina began to write songs. She continued writing, something she devoted more time to when she was in her mid-20s, but soon learned that her family had decided to move to the US to start a new business. Not wanting to be separated from her relatives, Irina moved with.

On a trip to Los Angeles, Irina’s fate changed for good. Irina met Mikey Minden, creative director for the Pussycat Dolls, which launched the start of her pop project. Together, Irina and Mikey worked on a hot club dance style and Irina’s first single, the original song “Something About You,” was released in the US. The song quickly debuted on Billboard’s Hot Dance Club Play chart and remained on the list for a number of weeks, peaking at No. 40.

Now, Irina’s second single “One Last Kiss” has made its debut, and she is gearing up for the launch of her third original track, “Believe.”