Saturday, February 6, 2016

Key Secrets

Way back in the “days of old”, according to the story, the city’s valuables were held in safes which were duly guarded by designated “Keepers”.  The Keepers were personally responsible for the security of these safes, and holding onto the key that opened them.  To no one’s surprise, the keys could go missing, or be stolen, resulting in rather dire consequences for said Keepers.  The Keepers devised a solution in the form of a “Key Safe”, which was essentially an early puzzle box in which to secure the key.  The secrets of opening the key safe were known only to the society of Keepers, whose cunning rose above the common, befuddled folk.  

The Keeper's Key Safe by Randal Gatewood

Randal Gatewood, the expert woodworker and crafty puzzle box purveyor of Quagmire Puzzle Boxes, brought this concept back to life with his limited series of “Keepers Key Safe” puzzles.  The box takes the form of a small chest which was expertly crafted by hand from Argentine Mahogany, and polished with a special lacquer and beeswax finish.  

The lid slides back, but the puzzle has just begun ...

The lid slides smoothly back to reveal another internal wood panel, locked in place, with a slot for the key and branded with the Quagmire Puzzle Box logo.  The little wood key is supplied as well, which easily drops into the box through the slot for safe keeping.  As Keeper of the Key Safe, only you understand the clever 7 step movement required to retrieve it.  You hope.  Otherwise, you will be locked away from something valuable, such as your pride.

Can you keep the Key safe?

Houston’s craft cocktail bar scene has garnered numerous national accolades over the past few years, starting with Anvil Bar and Refuge, which set the standard.  A few Anvil alums have branched out on their own and opened bars recently.  One notable standout is Spare Key, a secluded “secret” upstairs bar run by Chris Frankel.  The bar sits above a popular restaurant, and has no external marking to announce itself except for a stenciled key on a back side door.  

Hmmm, I wonder whats up here?

Hmmm, secret boxes, secret bars, not so secret appeal.  Frankel has been lauded for his innovative bar programs around Houston.  At Spare Key, in addition to impeccably executed classics and an incredible specialty cocktail menu, Frankel has launched his “Unlock the States” menu. It features 51 different cocktails, one for each state plus DC.  The cocktails range from old classics to new standards, all related to that state in some fashion.  It’s kind of like pairing a cocktail with a puzzle box, right?  I’m probably the only one who sees it that way, but I’m okay with that.  I thought it would be fun to bring the Keeper’s Key Safe to the Spare Key bar, and see what Chris might come up with.  Luckily he was up for the challenge.  He didn’t fare too well with the puzzle box, but in his defense he was trying to open up the bar for the night.  I mentioned that Randal Gatewood, who created the Key Safe box, is from Texas as well, so a Texas themed drink might be in order.  

The Gatewood by Chris Frankel

The Texas “Unlock the States” drink is a margarita, but Chris whipped up a new drink he created on the spot for this impromptu challenge.  He combined Sotol, an indigenous Mexican spirit similar to tequila but from a slightly different plant and region, with Cocchi Americano, the light Italian Aperitif, Benedictine, and fresh lemon juice.  The drink was incredibly light and smooth, with subtle smokiness and sweetness.  It’s a delicious Texas treat to complement the Key Safe, and we decided to name it the “Gatewood”.  Here’s to the creative and talented artists who bring such skill to these remarkable creations, and make it look easy.  Cheers!

If you've got any spare keys, you might want to keep them safe ...

For more information about Randal Gatewood:

For more information about Spare Key and Chris Frankel:

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