Mars Cheese Castle — Valhalla for Wisconsin tourists, Petra of sausage, Lourdes for dairy wonks — is an Interstate-94 icon, a store that draws you in with ostentation then overwhelms with its unflinching dedication to everything meat and cheese. If you’ve driven to Milwaukee, it’s like they’re daring you not to stop in. The temptation is too strong. Its Wheel of Fortune-meets-'70s car dealership sign, standing 90-foot tall, appears from a distance and lures you to pull off the exit ramp. You do, then think to yourself, it’s no outlet, but a castle, so surely they’re protecting valuables inside. You walk in, and it’s row after row of bacon, beer, hot sauces, smoked and cured sausages. Here, cheese comes in curd, brick and football-shaped forms. For most men, it’s a knee-buckling sight. After 64 years in the same Kenosha location, the Mars Cheese Castle closed its doors on Tuesday. When it reopens at 9 a.m. on Friday, March 4, it will have moved a few yards west to a new 24,000-square foot store. This time, it’s a real castle. Features include natural stone floors, brick exteriors and a 35-foot tall watchtower that will house its wine department. Chains once used to moor large vessels simulate a drawbridge. There are no moats, however. Construction began in July 2010, and was necessitated by Wisconsin’s I-94 widening project, which will eventually make the freeway four lanes in both directions. Phil Wehrmeister, a Mars co-owner, said building costs are in the “multi-million dollar” range. He said the bathrooms — two each for gentlemen and ladies — will be state of the art. Cheese, bacon, beer, state of the art bathrooms? Say no more. March 4 can't come soon enough.
The website conducted a survey, asking 19,300 of its male members how many sexual partners they have had, and found out that Chris, Charles, Dennis and James said they were more sexually active than members named David, Brian, Jason or Bruce.
The survey found there were six “s-ending names” in the top 10 – Chris averaged 11.3 lovers, Charles 11.1, Dennis 10.8 and James 10.4. On the other end of the scale, names like Edward, Frank and David counted less than two lovers.
For the first time since Reconstruction, I have a date for Valentine's Day. I'm really looking forward to it because my date is smart and pretty and I will eat duck and scallops, but part of me regrets that I won't be hosting my traditional one-man holiday couch party.
But enough about me for a sentence or two. You don't have a date, do you? Well, buck up, soldier! Being a single man on Valentine's Day isn't so bad. While my fellow swells and I are out on the town with our comely lasses and our zippered pants and our "How did I spend $300 on a Monday night in February?" you single stallions will be safe at home, drinking your contentment away.
And since you already have one tough decision to make—summon the ambition to play video games or simply kick back and watch Charlie Sheen and Doogie Howser teach a fat kid how to mistreat women during college basketball commercials—I'm going to tell you what to drink: 40s of malt liquor. half the price(!) triple the size(!) double the alcohol(!) and a third the quality.
Wincing through a few oversized cold-then-cool-then-kinda-warm ones is the manliest way to drink. Not because there's anything inherently macho about it, but for the strictly definitional reason that women never voluntarily choose to drink beer that's half the price(!) triple the size(!) double the alcohol(!) and a third the quality. I like women a lot, but the fact that they let one little negative outweigh three glaring positives doesn't exactly help overcome stereotypes about their math skills.
Yes, it's true that 40s are unwieldy and also that they force you to choose between blacking out at the ungentlemanly hour of "before the pizza guy gets there" or slowing it down and sweating through a warm second 20. But it's just as true that they're really cheap and make you feel a little bit like a badass late-'80s rapper. As my grandfather used to say, if you're going to be home alone on Valentine's Day, you might as well save a couple bucks and pretend you're Eazy E.
So now that we've settled on what genre of solitary sweatpant boozing you'll be doing, let's tackle the specifics. First of all, you need to make sure you're drinking a proper malt liquor and not merely regular beer in a 40-ounce bottle. What's the difference? Malt liquor says "malt liquor" on the label, dummy. (The definition's a bit hazy, but in general it means American-style lager with a higher alcohol content, although these days a lot of perfectly respectable beers have just as much alcohol as the classic malt liquors, which tend to hover around 6% ABV.)
So which brand of malt liquor tastes the least awful? My research assistant and I drank our way through the most prominent options, presented below in the order in which I can see their carcasses fouling my recycling bin:
Colt 45: It has an over-carbonated sweetness that reminds me of Miller High Life, and I hate Miller High Life. But if it's good enough for Billy Dee Williams, it's good enough for me, even if Billy Dee's famous claim that it "works every time" is only applicable to my life if the work in question involves passing out in the bushes on the way home from Kevin O'Malley's house the summer before 12th grade.
Mickey's: The taste is mild and unassuming, which is a good thing in a beverage category full of dubious assumptions. With rebuses on the underside of the caps, it's also the thinking man's 40.
Steel Reserve: This sickly yellow beaut is 8.1% ABV and tastes like dry topsoil, and not in an altogether unpleasant way.
St. Ides: Celebrity endorser Ice Cube is my favorite West Coast rapper, which is not nearly enough to compensate for the ugly truth. It tastes like cotton. St. Ides sucks.
Haffenreffer Private Stock: This was the easiest 40 to come by during my misspent youth, and I still like it even though it's a bit soapier than I remembered. Bonus points for being brewed in Jamaica Plain back in the good old days before the bakeries squeezed out the malt liquories. (My research assistant, despite having been conceived in JP, thought it was the worst of the bunch. She cited the taste and the aftertaste as two particular flaws; when pressed for a specific description, she said, "It tastes like something I hate.")
Olde English 800: This tastes like nine parts stale beer mixed with one part store-brand cream soda. I hope my man Eazy E snuck into heaven, but if not the silver lining is that they surely serve his beloved OE in hell.
King Cobra: This tasted faintly of overripe lemon and very little else, which made it the runaway winner of our tasting.
Holy Edibles, Batman! My friends and I just ate the meal of a lifetime at the Publican, and by meal I don't mean the kind of meal mu former roommate FFDM dropped back in the late nineties. Close you eyes and take the time to picture this, brought to my table by a large, four-eyed spectacled server:
1) Spicy pork rinds: Crispy, crunchy spicy pork rinds with a flavorful white meat crunch. The ultimate. fluffy, tangy Funyon. The best fuckin' Funyon I have ever had!
2) Picture if you can, a savory meat platter filled with melt in your mouth salty ham products. Yes, meat so soft and savory that is actually disintegrates without your consent. Like Eric Roberts himself entered your oral cavity. Yes, I wrote it and your read it. Swinerrific hams!!!!
3) Oysters from both the east and west coast of civilization. West coast, as suspected beats the shit out of east coast, Fuck you Puffy.
4) Snapper Full snapper, partially-filleted table side. Tasty as shit and straight up yummy! Flaky and good size celery.
5) Octopus. Those slimy fucks are vain as shit and it makes sense why. When grilled right, they're soft, chewy, delectable goodness. Soft, charry, delicious.
6) Give it up for the veg. Arrugala rapes broccoli and yes, you get rappini..and it's worth it. Beyond that, shaved brussel sprouts with goat's cheese and lemon curd. A sour-infused orgy. Take that, wifey!! The 22nd century coleslaw. The modern man's side dish.
7) And for the piece de resistance: PORCHETTA!! A widing pork chuck as big as my fat one, La Chance. Pork belly wrapped around a pork loin. Yep, as good as it sounds.
8)For Dessert, the works: Banana Cake, Crispy Waffle, and Sugar-Rimmed Doughnuts...All totally worth it. P.S. Prefer the blueberry jam on the waffle.