Saturday, May 19, 2018

To the Lighthouse - Part I


I’m heeding the siren’s song which has been beckoning me to write about a pair of puzzle box beacons for a while now.  I’ve always loved lighthouses since I was a boy, which is admittedly not very unique.  There’s something about the combination of a tower, a spiral staircase, a room with a hatch, the sea, the rocks, and just the height of it all which appeals to children in general.  As an adult there’s also something forlorn, perhaps lonely, and certainly romantic about them.  Lighthouses originate all the way back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, where they would signal the entrance to a major port.  We don’t have to travel quite that far back to enjoy this puzzle box.

40 Move Challenge Box (Lighthouse) by Yasutoshi Makishi

Yasutoshi Makishi is a Japanese American carpenter and cabinet maker who was born in Okinawa.  Over twenty-five years ago he studied a seven-move puzzle box he had acquired from the source - Hakone, Japan.  He spent the next two years studying it and developing his own techniques and designs for a similar box, which would stand up well to the climate in America, and which would be incredible sturdy and strong.  This would lead to his original eight-move puzzle box.  He went on to design ever more challenging boxes, produced in his unique style based on classic techniques which he then modified in his own clever way.  His boxes are all hand made from high quality wood and given natural, simple finishes. 

Not so simple ...

He originally sold his fine work at highly selective juried arts and crafts shows in the North Eastern United States, where astute observers would find his boxes adorned with hand painted idyllic scenes on the lids.   These meadows and lakes with sailboats were often painted by his own hand, or by fellow artist friends.  He later retired from the craft circuit and began making his signature series of simple appearing boxes (at least on the outside) which ranged in movement and difficulty from eight moves on up to fifty.  Prior to 2011 all of his boxes were hand signed, and subsequent creations bear his recognizable branding iron mark.  What sets his boxes apart from traditional Japanese puzzle boxes are the maze-like twists and turns, as well as blind alleys and dead-ends, that he builds in with increasing difficulty as the move count goes up.   You will approach one of his boxes in the traditional manner, and soon find yourself stuck.  These puzzle boxes are surprisingly tricky, and the highest move boxes are downright difficult!  The Lighthouse box featured here requires forty moves to open, and is one of the most complicated “traditional” style Japanese puzzle boxes I have encountered (not counting his fifty-move box, I can think of one other …).  It’s a delightful box which combines a few of my favorite things. 

Siren Song by Meaghan Montagano

It’s about time we raised a glass to Mr. Makishi here at Boxes and Booze.  Since lighthouses are used in modern times to warn sea travelers about treacherous rocks and jetties, it seemed safe enough for us to enjoy this deliciously tempting tipple, the Siren’s Song.  Hopefully the lighthouse will keep us safe.  The drink was created by New York "startender" Meaghan Montagano, bar manager at Michelin starred La Sirena, to compliment St. George Spirits amazing Spiced Pear Liqueur.  The drink is richly layered thanks to the base of anejo tequila, and sweetened with one of St. George distillery’s many unique and outrageously good offerings. Their Spiced Pear Liqueur carries notes of cinnamon and clove which compliment the ripe Bartlett pear flavor.  The walnut syrup adds warm under tones and the cinnamon syrup places this drink firmly in the decadent category.  I’ve spiced things up even further by using Soltado, an anejo tequila which has been infused with serrano pepper and more cinnamon.  Be careful – once you head this Siren’s Song you may never go back.  Here’s to temptation, in moderation, with a lighthouse to guide the way back to safety. Cheers.

Warm and cozy flavors with a bit of heat and spice - tempted?

Siren Song by Meaghan Montagano

1 ¾ anejo tequila (I used Soltado)
¾ St. George Spiced Pear Liqueur
½ oz walnut liqueur
1 bar spoon cinnamon syrup
1 dash smoke bitters (I used Black Cloud Charred Cedar)
Lemon peel garnish

Stir together with ice and strain into a favorite glass. Keep an eye out for mermaids and keep your lighthouse handy.
Will you heed the warning?

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