January 23, 2019

Fake Dating 101 – Porn Addiction

I met a man for drinks on Saturday night. He was in his 50’s, employed, twice divorced, a father, and unfiltered in conversation. The time I spent with this man was interesting. By interesting of course I mean not even remotely interesting. I spent an hour with him and came home and cried. Dating is exhausting and I cried for no other reason that I was tired of the dating process. Important to note I only cried for a minute, but worth mentioning tears were shed.

We arrived to the bar at the same time, recognized each other at valet, said hello, hugged, and went to the bar. We made small talk about work and kids, then he said he was having a great time and would I like to move to a table for dinner. I wasn’t sure if we were a match, but he was pleasant and the conversation easy. I’m trying to date with an open mind and no expectations, so I agreed to dinner and we relocated to a table for dinner. We ordered dinner and to the best of my recollection, this was our conversation:

Him: Here’s a question…. Do you like porn?

Me: Did you just ask me if I like porn?

Him: Yes. I hope you’re not offended.

Me: It’s a rather bold question for a first date.

Him: First dates are about getting to know each other.

Me: You jumped from how old is my son to porn.

Him: Are you intimidated by sex and talking about it?

Me: Really?

Him: Porn can be a great addition to a relationship.

Me: Really?

Him: I think it is an important topic and it matters to me.

Me: I think we’re done.

Him: I don’t want to start something that can’t go anywhere.

Me: Whether or not you date me depends on if I like porn?

Him: Yes.

Me: I don’t think I’m the girl for you.

Him: I think it is a conversation worth having

Me: Then why not put it in your profile so it’s out there?

Him: It’s private.

Me: If it is private, why are we talking about it?

Him: I’m sorry.

Me: I’m going to head out, here’s money for dinner.

Him: I’m sorry, please don’t go.

Me: I wish you the best of luck with your search.

Him: My marriage ended because of my love of porn.

Me: Take care.

Him: I’d like you to stay.

Me: Goodnight.

I went home, made myself a porn star martini in honor of my date, and went to bed. It was a fake porn star because I didn’t have vanilla vodka, but I figured it would be okay to have a fake drink after a fake date. I have decided the man on Saturday night was not a date, he was a test. I enjoyed my cocktail and was sleeping by 10:00. The good news I passed the test. How do I know I passed? Because I am still keeping the faith.

Cheers to L.A. from Tel Aviv’s King of Cocktails

Mixologist Yuval Soffer. Photo by Lior Golsad

Yuval Soffer is a mixologist on a mission.

We met up earlier this year at La Otra bar and restaurant in Tel Aviv, located inside the Imperial Hotel and across the lobby from the city’s seminal cocktail bar of the same name. La Otra is an eclectic, exotic ode to Mexico and the Caribbean filtered through an Israeli lens. It’s kitschy and tiki-esque, but the drinks aren’t textbook tiki, per se. Soffer, a fan of La Otra, explained that establishing a true tiki bar in Israel still is impossible “because there’s no variety. There’s no high-proof rum, there’s no Martinique rum.”

One of the leading figures in Tel Aviv’s burgeoning cocktail scene, Soffer, 38, who claims to sleep only about three hours a night, currently is involved with projects that run the gamut from hyper-local to large-scale. In early summer, he opened a bar called the Guest Room in the up-and-coming Levontin area, roughly between Florentine and Shapira. He described the mostly outdoor spot as “building on the concept of a neighborhood bar. There’s no menu. You come in and ask” for what you want to drink, gimmick-free. While the products will be top-tier, “it’s about the experience there. It’s about being a guest.”

But it hasn’t been easy getting to this point. After finishing military service and working in Tel Aviv nightclubs, he headed to the United States to visit family in New York and pursue theater. He then “fell in love with film” and moved to Los Angeles, where he studied directing at UCLA. That is, until side gigs in bars and nightlife venues became his primary passion.

At a certain point, he said, “it was time to choose. I chose the bar life.”

During the seven years he spent in L.A., Soffer’s stints included Culver City’s erstwhile Fraiche restaurant and chef David Myers’ Comme Ça casual French brasserie, as well as a bar called Neat in Glendale.

In 2013, he settled back in his native Tel Aviv. He consulted on the concept and opening of the well-regarded Gatsby Cocktail Room in Jerusalem in 2014, which helped get the ball rolling.

“I felt like it was a good time to help the evolution of the industry over here,” Soffer said about his return. “I came with an agenda to be a consultant, and from the second I landed, I’ve been busy ever since. I haven’t stopped working. Opening bars, helping bars.”

What was initially a creative frustration of working in Israel compared to L.A. and New York turned into a fun challenge. According to Soffer, the relatively limited range of spirits available to Israeli bars reflects the monopoly of corporate brands in Israel and sky-high import taxes on alcohol. (That said, obscure labels still can be spotted on La Otra’s shelves. Israeli bartenders find a way.)

Soffer explained how the cocktail revival trend took a little longer to reach Tel Aviv. When it happened, however, the demand was quick. 

“In those four years, there have been a lot of changes. It’s become really big, really fast — which is a little bit dangerous for an industry,” Soffer said.

Skeptical of places where “there’s no knowledge of the classics,” he’s part of a movement in Israel that involves understanding certain traditions and history. He said he has less respect for an establishment where the staff is more concerned with “visual effect and lot of show in the glass,” rather than knowing how to make cocktails that might have been served from Manhattan to New Orleans to San Francisco in the late 19th century, such as a Sazerac or a gin martini. 

Soffer’s time in Los Angeles proved to be invaluable to his work in Tel Aviv, but he admitted he misses the West Coast, where “life was less hectic.” In fact, a bunch of his belongings are still back in his former West L.A. home.

So, what was the main takeaway from his Southern California sojourn?

“The first thing that comes to mind is the support the industry has, which was something I never experienced in New York,” he said. “Sharing information and trying to help each other grow and share knowledge … is what L.A. did from the get-go.”

That spirit of cooperation has resulted in L.A.’s robust, ever-growing craft cocktail scene, he explained, mentioning bar consultants Aidan Demarest and Marcos Tello, whose regular gathering, called the Sporting Life, was a salon-like forum that has petered out somewhat since its founding. At regular meetings, participants would talk shop about everything from the nitty-gritty details of making their own bitters, to the merits of various barware brands, to recipes and bar design.

“It’s just now starting to happen here,” Soffer said.

Soffer is not a man in need of more gigs, and yet he also is a brand consultant for Milk & Honey, the ambitious distillery located in south Tel Aviv, which is open to the public for tours and tastings. The company hired master distiller Jim Swan, who died in February, to help create a kosher Israeli single-malt whisky in the Scottish style, barrel-aged for three years.

While that specific product is not yet ready for release, Soffer’s job is to spread the word about the product and educate fellow bar pros about how Milk & Honey’s gin, unaged whiskeys and other Israeli-made spirits currently in development can be used for kosher and non-kosher drinkers alike.

Who knows, maybe this track will bring him back to L.A., so he finally can pack up the rest of his stuff.

Childhood Dreams

Have you ever loved something you have never seen in real life, only photographs? Convinced that if you were to ever see it, you would plunge into depths of joy that engulf your entire being? Scared that if you did see it, you would somehow be disappointed and your dreams crushed? Over the weekend a dream of mine came true and I was profoundly moved by it. I spent the weekend in the English countryside and was transported to my childhood dreams.

I have always wanted to live in the England countryside. I would have a grand, old home with lots of land, magnificent gardens, and tons of animals. I’d spend my days walking through fields and forests, cooking glorious food, with a door always open to family, friends, and strangers. Anyone who had a story to share. I’d have a massive dog and an English husband. As I’ve grown old the dream remains the same, only now there is a pub in town that makes a great Cosmo.

Adam Ant was the first man I ever fell in love with and he was the husband of my childhood dreams. I thought he was the most handsome man in the world and I’d listen to his records endlessly. I thought we’d get married and live happily ever after. I was certain if given the opportunity to meet me, he’d fall instantly and desperately in love. Every minute I spend in England is with the hope I’ll see him, our eyes lock, and our lives entwine as they were always destined to.

I stayed in a magnificent home and as I wondered into each room it took my breath away and required all my strength not to cry. I stood in my sprawling bedroom as the sun was setting, looking out onto the Isle of Wight in the distance, and I was mesmerized. It is not often someone’s dreams come true and I was emotional. I felt as if my beloved English father was looking down on me, thrilled the dream we had spoken of so often had come true. It was magical.

The rooms were romantic and historical. The fireplaces held stories of so many who sat in front of them. There was so much to see one could spend days in each room and constantly discover new treasures. The home was grand and important, yet warm and welcoming. You could feel happiness contained in the walls and while I’m certain a home so old must be haunted, the ghosts were simply happy to have company and enjoyed the merriment. I loved every moment.

On Sunday, pretending that I actually lived there and Adam was on his way home, I went to the pub and raised a glass to my dad, who’s stories of his childhood in England became my dreams. I took lots of pictures with both my camera and my mind’s eye, so I could come back to the exact moment we walked through an enchanted forest with deer running between 2000-year-old trees. It was a spectacular weekend and I am once again dreaming of a life here.

Sidebar: The pub didn’t make a Cosmo, so I requested the drink I invented in my country home. The “Fallen Angel” is now a favorite and I’ve had a couple since the weekend. The drink is fizzy elderflower, a shot of vodka, and a splash of grenadine, over ice. It is sweet and light and the perfect substitution to my believed Cosmo. I’m not sure how easy it will be to find sparkling elderflower in LA, but I will, and Fallen Angels will be a go to beverage for the summer. Try it!

It is quite spectacular to be transported to your childhood at the exact moment you see a vision of your future. This piece of heaven made this angel very happy. Thank you to my lovely hosts for a wonderful time. From the walks, to meeting the animals, to the Yorkshire pudding and blackberry crumble, it was all perfect. I felt lucky to be included in the weekend and look forward to one day being your neighbor. I am looking out for Adam, and keeping the faith.