Belgium – Moon Drops

Comic Creations

While Get Fuzzy is the Sip Advisor’s favourite comic and he doesn’t stray too far from that strip (although he loves him the occasional Garfield story), Belgium is known for a few animated legends that have recently been turned into feature film franchises. Let’s take a closer look at these works:

The Adventures of Tintin

First published in 1929, Tintin was created by the artist simply known as Hergé (real name Georges Remi) as part of a newspaper supplement. Tintin books have gone on to become big business, selling more than 350 million copies in over 80 different languages. The character is often described as a native son of Belgium, which is pretty good praise for someone whose best friends are a dog and an oft-drunk sea captain.

Have you ever wondered where the name Tintin came from? The character’s first name is actually Martin and Tintin is a common nickname for people named Martin in French-speaking countries. His dog Snowy is actually called Milou in the French comics, while the detective duo of Thompson and Thomson are named Dupont and Dupond.

Tintin Age

Tintin, a teenage journalist and detective, has travelled the world and even beyond it. He’s had adventures in the Congo, the Soviet Union, China, and even on the moon. If you wish to keep up with his globetrotting, you may be out of luck. Some of the regions he’s visited are completely made up, such as Khemed, Borduria, Syldavia, and Nuevo Rico.

The 2011 film release, involving movie moguls Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson, sees Hergé actually appear in the opening scene as the street artist. A Tintin theatrical release had been in the works since the 1980’s, when Spielberg first crafted a script for the Belgian icon. There has also been a Tintin TV cartoon (the Sip Advisor’s first introduction to Tintin adventures), BBC radio show, two French live-action films, stage shows, and publicity stunts.

Belgium Balls

The Smurfs

Created in 1958 by artist Peyo (what’s with all these Belgian comic creators going by a singular name), also known as Pierre Culliford, the Smurfs are branded as Les Schtroumpfs, in French. Peyo came up with the word ‘schtroumpfs’ when he forgot the word for salt at a dinner party and made something up on the spot. Smurf is simply the Dutch translation of the word.

The Smurfs, thanks to their North American TV cartoon, become a pop culture hit in the 1980’s (Smurfmania had already hit the U.K. in the 70’s), spawning their own cereal (including a commercial starring a 13-year-old Jack Black), video games, songs, dance craze, theme park attractions, Ice Capades show, and, of course, lines of toys and other merchandise that kids just had to have.

bring-me-a-smurf

In the beginning, there was only 99 Smurf characters, but that number has risen over the years. Despite the growth in population, there are only three female Smurfs: Smurfette, Sassette, and Nanny Smurf… talk about a sausage party! Some Smurfs from the original comics never made the crossover to TV and film. These characters include Alchemist Smurf, Timid Smurf, Enamored Smurf, Finance Smurf, Lumberjack Smurf, and Navigator Smurf.

The Smurfs helped create modern zombies, thanks to a 1959 comic called ‘The Black Smurfs’ (‘The Purple Smurfs’ in North America). The story was about a Smurf being bitten by an insect, before going around and biting other Smurfs, turning them into aggressive, living-dead beings. This comic was released years before George A. Romero’s ‘Night of the Living Dead’ and featured the birth of Grouchy Smurf, the patient zero who never regained his full Smurf senses following the outbreak.

Belgium: Moon Drops

Moon Drops Cocktail

Belgium has been dubbed ‘Home of the Comic Strip’ and these panels are considered to be an important part of Belgian life. Next time the Sip Advisor is visiting, he will certainly sit down with a Tintin or Smurfs anthology and give it a read. Some Belgian beer will help with the language barrier!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (3 Sips out of 5):
This cocktail was simple, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The drops of Sherry floated on top of the drink, gave the brew a unique taste and made it look neat with that hazy red colour. Stella is a clean, crisp and easy to drink beer.

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Spain – First Avenue

I’d Tap That

Without Spain, we wouldn’t have tapas… and without tapas, we would never eat. Okay, that might be a little bit of exaggeration, but we certainly appreciate the invention of the appetizer, for without it, monstrous starter platters could not be devoured! Let’s take a look at some common Spanish tapas (according to Wikipedia – the number one source for online legitimacy) and see whether they pass the Sip Advisor taste test:

Tapas or Tapass

Albóndigas: Meatballs with sauce

Okay, we’re off to a decent start. Who doesn’t like meatballs? Well, I guess vegetarians and vegans, but do they really count?

Tortillitas de Camarones: Battered prawn fritters

Anything described as “battered” can play on my team!

Pimientos de Padrón: Small green peppers fried in olive oil or served raw (most are mild, but a few in each batch are quite spicy)

Finding the spicy green peppers is like locating the toy in a box of cereal. At first, you’re really happy because you found the surprise before anyone else could get to it. Joy turns to disappointment quickly, however, when you realize the toy isn’t that great anyway, much like a spicy green pepper when you’re expecting mild!

Aceitunas: Olives, sometimes with a filling of anchovies or red bell pepper

To me, appies need to be something more than a condiment stuffed with another condiment, but I sadly don’t call the shots in the country of Spain.

fuck-you-tapas

Solomillo al Whisky: Fried pork scallops, marinated using whisky, brandy or white wine and olive oil

Put the pork scallops aside and give me a couple bottles of your best marinade!

Cojonuda (superb female): A slice of Spanish morcilla with a fried quail egg over bread – it can also be prepared with a little strip of red, spicy pepper

Looked up morcilla and it is actually blood sausage, so there’s strike one. Strike two is the fried quail egg although I’m sure somewhere in the world it is a delicacy. While I can’t find anything to call the cojonuda out, I’ve decided to change the rules of baseball to suit my purpose and now all you need is two strike to retire a batter.

Cojonudo (superb male): A slice of Spanish chorizo with a fried quail egg over a slice of bread

So, there are male and female versions of cojonudo… is your sexual orientation decided by which you prefer? What if you like to swing both ways?

Pincho Moruno: A stick with spicy meat, made of pork, lamb or chicken

Nothing beats meat on a stick unless it’s spicy meat!

Appetizers

Empanadillas: Turnovers filled with meats and vegetables

Any food pocket device stuffed with more food will always shoot to the top of my favourite list. The name would have you thinking you’re about to eat a small animal, however.

Gambas: Prawns sauteed in salsa negra (peppercorn sauce), al ajillo (with garlic), or pil-pil (with chopped chili peppers)

Poor prawns… such a small creature and still gets stuffed with any number of items.

Mejillones Rellenos: Stuffed mussels, sometimes called tigres (“tigers”) because of the spicy taste

Mrs. Sip would love her some tiger muscles, but I have to note that tiger ice cream isn’t spicy and I think this calls into the question the process of describing spice levels using animals. I feel calling them dragon muscles would be more apt.

Patatas Bravas or Papas Bravas: Fried potato dices served with salsa brava a spicy tomato sauce – sometimes served also with mayo or aioli

Are these like brave little potatoes… you know, in a similar vein to the Brave Little Toaster?

Tapas Bill

Chorizo a la Sidra: Chorizo sausage slowly cooked in cider

Cider, you say? Not my favourite, but it does have booze in it!

Chorizo al Vino: Chorizo sausage slowly cooked in wine

See above, but even better!

Calamares or Rabas: Rings of battered squid

I wonder if the Spanish can rival Greek calamari? Perhaps both countries should send me some of their finest product and I will, once and for all, get to the bottom of this ever-deepening mystery.

Zamburiñas: Renowned Galician scallops, often served in a marinera, tomato-based sauce

Renowned??? I’ll be the judge of that. Again, Spain, send some my way and we’ll send out the results as soon as our little feast has concluded!

Spain: First Avenue

First Avenue Martini

  • 1.5 oz Sherry
  • 0.5 oz Cointreau
  • Splash of Campari
  • Top with Club Soda
  • Garnish with an Orange Wedge

Sometimes I’m into the idea of tapas and other times, I loathe them. While they’re a treasure trove of variety and perfect portion size for the ladies, a dude sometimes wants something he can really sink his teeth into like a fat burger or other hearty meal. The worst is going out with a group and splitting a bunch of appies… you will not have a good time!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes: (3.5 Sips out of 5):
This drink was pretty good. Even when I subbed in Tonic Water for Club Soda, it wasn’t as bitter as I feared it would be, especially with the splash of Campari there to team up with the Tonic. I guess the Cointreau and Sherry balance out the sweet-bitter war and make for an interesting cocktail.

Spain – Banana Nutbread

Surreal Skill

One of Spain’s most famous figures is artist Salvador Dali. Everything from his collection of work to his personal look was certainly bizarre, but that’s what attracted so many to him. Dali separated himself from the crowd in so many ways. Here are some of the unique aspects of his zany life:

Dali Reincarnate

Dali was the second Salvador Dali to be born into his family. Nine months before he came along, his brother (with the same name) died at the age of 22 months. When he was five, Dali was taken to his brother’s burial plot and told by his parents that he was the reincarnation of his deceased sibling. And we wonder why he turned out to be such a wacky nut! The brothers did resemble one another, with Dali later saying: “[We] resembled each other like two drops of water, but we had different reflections.”

Shit Just Got Surreal

Getting Prepped

In order to do his work, Dali used a few unique tactics to get in the right mood, including sleeping in a chair with a spoon standing on top of a plate on his head. When the spoon fell and hit the plate, he would awaken and quickly take notes on what he saw in his dreams. Dali would also stand on his head (a favourite position of the Sip Advisor) for long periods of time, allowing his brain to function differently than normal.

Famous Pieces

Dali’s most celebrated work is The Persistence of Memory, which features the melting clocks he is probably best known for. Dali’s talent and vision extended to many different kinds of art, including jewelry. He is famous for a number of wearable pieces, most notably The Royal Heart, comprised of pure gold adorned with 46 rubies, 42 diamonds and two emeralds.

For Love of Money

Dubbed “Avida Dollars” (an anagram for Salvador Dali) by some, Dali was known to do almost anything for money. He appeared in commercials for Lanvin chocolates, which featured the artist exclaiming his love for the treat before biting into it, which caused his eyes to cross and his mustache to curl. He also designed the Chupa Chups lollipop logo, which is subtle, colourful, and meaningful all at the same time.

avida dollars

Scam Artist

One of the best stories I’ve ever heard about Dali is how he scammed Yoko Ono (one of the most vile creatures in the known world) to the tune of $10,000. Ono, for her own inexplicable reason, wanted a strand of Dali’s mustache hair. Dali asked for $10,000 and when he was paid, sent her a dried blade of grass instead. As the fable goes, apparently Dali was worried the hair would be sued for witchcraft… proving I’m not the only one who thinks Ono is a witch!

Hail Hitler

Along with a fascination for eclectic animals (the man had an ocelot!), Dali was fixated on Adolf Hitler. He once said: “I often dreamed about Hitler as other men dreamed about women.” I mean, who am I to say what people should be dreaming about, but this one takes the cake. A later painting of Dali’s is called Hitler Masturbating and it isn’t a figurative title. Thankfully, the dictator’s (should I use that word here?) true Nazi salute is obstructed.

Demented Disney

In 1946, Dali and Walt Disney actually joined forces for an animated short, titled Destino. Based on the song by the same name, by Armando Dominguez, Dali blended his artistic style with Disney’s character work. The piece wasn’t finished until 48 years later, when Baker Bloodworth and Roy E. Disney returned to the project, which features strange figures and dreamlike images. Mrs. Sip and I were able to view this work (with free champagne) aboard one of our cruises and it was a trip, to say the least.

Paying Bills

If you ever have trouble paying for a large and expensive meal, you could try this trick, but it probably only works for someone of Dali’s stature. When the bill came to Dali’s table, no matter how many people had enjoyed the outing or how expensive it was, he was quick to pick up the tab. This wasn’t done out of generosity, however, as Dali had a trick up his sleeves (if he even work sleeves!). He would quickly do a little drawing on the cheque and because of his fame, the restaurant wouldn’t dare cash an original Dali piece of art and therefore, his meal (and his guest’s) was basically comped.

Quoted Quotables

A number of interesting quotes came from the mind of Dali. These include: “The only difference between me and the surrealists is that I am a surrealist.”; “I myself am surrealism.”; “I don’t do drugs. I am drugs.”; and “Every morning upon awakening, I experience a supreme pleasure: that of being Salvador Dalí.” That about sums the man up… let’s have a drink in his honour!

Spain: Banana Nutbread

Apr 14

  • 1 oz Frangelico
  • 1 oz Crème de Bananes
  • 0.5 oz Sherry
  • Scoop of Vanilla Ice Cream
  • Garnish with Peanuts

I enjoy dreams as much as the next person, but I can’t say that I’ve ever envisioned any of the imagery that Dali did. Love him or hate him, he was certainly a fascinating character who saw and experienced the world in a very different way than any other person. Plus, he was even turned into a Muppet on Sesame Street (Salvador Dada), a long-term goal of my own!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4.5 Sips out of 5):
While this sounds like a recipe for a delicious and nutritious dessert, it’s also the perfect cocktail for an eclectic artist like Salvador Dali. The beverage is quite tasty and it’s not overly sweet. Even Mrs. Sip liked it and trust me, if it’s too sweet, I’ll hear that… to no end!

England – Reichenbach Fall

Cultured Characters

England is a land of professed culture, what with all its museums, historical figures, and landmarks. Perhaps it can be noticed most in the country’s long history of fine literature. They call it English Lit for a reason! Always one for a good read (kidding, I’m the world’s most prolific non-reading writer), here are the greatest literary characters who call England home:

Sherlock Holmes

Along with his faithful sidekick Dr. Watson, this formidable duo have solved some of greatest mysteries to occur in and around London. Add in arch nemesis Dr. Moriarty, as well as other secondary characters like Mycroft Holmes, Irene Adler, and Inspector Lestrade and you have the makings of some great fiction. It was suggested that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle didn’t like the character he is most famous for, as evidenced by Holmes being killed off so the author could pursue other projects. Public outrage brought Holmes back to life years later and the character has enjoyed a long history of different treatments.

sherlock-early-years

James Bond

Agent 007 is the quintessential secret service member. Created by writer Ian Fleming, Bond is just as popular for his prowess in the field as he is for his conquests beneath the sheets. While Bond has been played by Irish and Scottish actors on the big screen (and that is probably where he’s most famous and recognized), his origins are purely English. There is virtually no way to put down the famous MI6 operative, so he’ll probably be around for a very long time.

Harry Potter

For inspiring an entire generation of kids to pick up a book and read (or go to the theatre and watch!), Harry Potter and his pals are a must for this list. So famous is the franchise, that theme parks have set up lands to include Hogwarts Castle and the village of Hogsmeade. Quidich has also become a playable game, although it looks more ridiculous than polo and cricket combined. Wee little sippers want to grow up to become wizards and parents have J.K. Rowling to thank for the next wave of geeks!

Mr. Toad

Written by Scottish author Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows features the friendly and jovial, but selfish and reckless Mr. Toad, as well as his pals Mole, Ratty, and Badger. The stories were based on Grahame’s love of river life along the Thames. Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride was my favourite Disneyland attraction as a wee little sipper and I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Mr. Toad and careless ways.

Mr. Toad's Ride

Paddington Bear

From “Darkest Peru” (whatever that means… my theory is Paddington was sent to London by his Peruvian owner, who had awoken from a pisco haze and mistakenly shipped the bear away), Paddington Bear arrives in England and is promptly taken in by the Brown family. A Paddington film will be released in 2014, mixing live action and CGI animation. The bear will be voiced by Colin Firth, who ate endless marmalade sandwiches, while donning a duffle coat to get into character.

Robin Hood

Stealing from the rich, to give to the poor, Robin Hood may not have begun life as a literary figure and was more of a folk hero told about in ballads (aren’t those as good or even better than books?), but his legend has inspired countless appearances in media, especially the written word. My favourite adaptation of the vigilante is the 1973 Disney film with Robin Hood portrayed as a fox and opposing a cowardly lion in Prince John.

linkedin-robin-hood

Ebenezer Scrooge

Teaching civilization a lesson about how it behaves while using Christmas as a backdrop, Charles Dickens character Ebenezer Scrooge is one of the finest examples of turnaround redemption. He goes from a literal scrooge to becoming a man of love, friendship, heart, and caring. One of the greatest scenes ever is ol’ Ebenezer racing through the streets of London like a raving madman after discovering he still has time to change his ways.

Willy Wonka

Roald Dahl’s famous chocolatier and candy producer is about as eccentric as a person can possibly come. That aids him in all the wacky creations he’s able to dream up and put into research and development, but at the same time, makes him guarded and suspicious, staying reclusive in his precious factory. We still don’t know where the hell Oompa Loompas come from, but they aren’t among the world’s greatest literary characters, so it doesn’t really matter.

England: Reichenbach Fall

Reichenbach Fall Drink Recipe

  • 1 oz Tanqueray Rangpur Gin
  • 2 oz Sherry
  • Dash of Orange Bitters
  • Top with Lemonade
  • Garnish with a Lemon Wedge

An honourable mention should go to English authors like William Shakespeare, Jane Austen (although I hate her so very much), J.R.R. Tolkien, and the many others that I just didn’t feel like shoehorning into this list. Their contributions to the literary world, although I’ve only heard of such through movies, TV, and other more visual media, should not go unnoticed!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4.5 Sips out of 5):
This recipe comes from my old friends at The Drunken Moogle, who nailed this cocktail inspired by the current Sherlock BBC Series, which is of course inspired by the original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stories about the sleuth. I used regular Orange Bitters, rather than the Blood Orange variety the drink calls for because I had it on hand. I really enjoyed the flavours and blend provided by this cocktail and was pleasantly surprised by the use of Sherry.