Wednesday, December 22, 2010

listen to the Living Proof. now.

Sun-dial First taste 2, cc by-nc-sa via cmdln on Flickr

John and Thomas's podcast, Living Proof, has finally gotten off the ground in recent weeks, and the episodes thus far are a joy to listen to. Topics range from their own brewing efforts and what they are drinking of late to higher-concept "beer theory" discussions that are at once casual and well-informed. These gentlemen are clearly enjoying themselves, and you should give them a listen and do so as well.

Congratulations are also in order, as their recent brew (the "Rogue Archivist") and the story behind it received a nice write-up on BoingBoing. Strong work, good sirs!

Rogue Archivist, cc by-nc-sa image via cmdln on Flickr

Monday, October 11, 2010

the rise of yeast and the fall of pumpkins

Brettanomyces, a cc by-nc-sa image from cizauskas on Flickr

While I was in Oz, John Fleury finished up the DCist's look at the basics of beer with an entry on yeast. In it, he addresses some of the basics of fermentation, and breaks down the chemistry behind certain scents and tastes associated with different beer styles. All in all, this is a fitting end to his informative blog series.

As an excellent coda, he followed it up with a piece on the currently-seasonal pumpkin ale style. Anyone who knows my fermented proclivities is aware of my lust for more extreme brews, but it may surprise you to know that when it comes to pumpkin beer, I prefer subtle, less pumped-up takes on the style. Fleury's roundup of pumpkin ales is a wonderful summary of the history and content of the style, and gives specific brand examples that run the gamut from the sublime to the ridiculous. It's a must-read if you have any interest in the squashy brews.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

acorn squash with apples

I've had several successful hard squash experiments since I was ruminating on the subject, and the first came from Natalie, who once again dropped an awesome suggestion for a recipe. I made this without any modifications from the Mayo Clinic formula as breakfast over the weekend:

  • 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 small acorn squash, about 6 inches in diameter
  • 2 teaspoons trans-free margarine

In a small bowl, mix together the apple and brown sugar. Set aside.

Pierce the squash several times with a sharp knife to let the steam escape during cooking. Microwave on high until tender, about 5 minutes. Turn the squash after 3 minutes to ensure even cooking.

Place the squash on a cutting board and cut in half. Scrape the seeds out of the center of each half and discard the seeds. Fill the hollowed squash with the apple mixture.

Return the squash to the microwave and cook until the apples are softened, about 2 minutes.

Transfer the squash to a serving dish. Top each half with 1 teaspoon margarine and serve immediately.

This was a great main breakfast course, topped off with toast and cheese that also came to us from Breezy Willow. The sweetness of the apple mixture was a good counterpoint to the nutty acorn squashflesh, and the textures were very complimentary. Should any acorn squash further wander into my possession, I'll be doing this one again.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

September 23, 30, and October 7 CSA shares

Yeah, so there's a bit of catching up to do...

Our return from Australia finds us pulling into the final, fall stretch of CSA goodness. That means, among other things, dealing with something I've never ventured to cook with before - hard squash! What exactly, I wondered, does one DO with such firm and intimidating plant material? Beyond carve it into spooky facies, or stare at it and feel vaguely rustic, I mean.

In short, I've found answers, and they are tasty... damn tasty. I will share those with you in the coming days, but for now, the raw materials from the last few weeks:

The September 23rd roll call: apple cider, ambercup squash, spinach, lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, bread, mushrooms, radishes, peaches, Asian pears, and red apples.

The September 30th roll call: spinach, bread, eggs, green beans, lettuce, acorn squash, pepperjack cheese, Asian pears, apples, and sweet potatoes.

The October 7th roll call: lettuce, eggs, mushrooms, pumpkin, bread, cucumbers, red potatoes, apples, Asian pears, and green beans.

Oh yes, pumpkin... I have plans for you... MWA HA HA HA

Monday, October 4, 2010

navigating Baltimore Beer Week

To say that there's a lot going on during the 10 sweet days of Baltimore Beer Week that are about to start this Thursday is, as they say, an understatement. To that end, the folks behind the celebration have come up with a couple of excellent ways to help attendees navigate through the 335 (as of today) events.

The first is the smartphone-optimized website at Not only has this condensed the event listings into an easy to query mobile database, but also promises to have real-time Twitter and photo integration.

Even more useful is the promised limited-edition passport. From the website:

This year, Baltimore Beer Week (BBW) is debuting a limited edition Beer Passport - a comprehensive guide to all beer-centric venues participating in BBW 2010. The Official Baltimore Beer Week Passport is designed as a keepsake; it will help you geographically locate BBW venues throughout the State of Maryland and provide vital contact information for these participating establishments. The interior pages can be used for note taking, autographs from your favorite beer celebrities, and more…

…so get your Beer Week Passport and use it to chronicle your journey while "Celebrating all Things Beer in the Land of Pleasant Living"!

There will be only 1500 BBW Passports produced this year. All attendees of the Baltimore Beer Week Opening Tap Celebration will receive a FREE Passport at the event. Additional Passports will be sold at select events throughout Baltimore Beer Week for a nominal price of $3.00 (Yes, Three Dollars!), wherever Baltimore Beer Week schwag is sold.

If you would like more information on how to obtain your own passport, please email your request here.

The Beer Passport is the Official Travel Voucher of Baltimore Beer Week 2010. Never leave home without it.

As of this writing, the Opening Tap Celebration is over 90% sold out, so if you are interested at all in attending this Thursday, be sure to get your tickets now.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Oktoberfest wanes

I have returned from Oz, and have tasted true Australian beer! No, you ninnie, not this foul tripe. Beverage notes from the trip will be bubbling up over the coming days.

Oktoberfest, cc by-nc-sa image from Joachim S. Mueller on Flickr

The only sad part of taking much of September off is missing out on many of the Oktoberfest activities in the area. Fortunately, we're still in the tail end of that sacred rite, and so there are plenty of celebrations to be had.

To this end, Charm City's local beverage and food purveyors have banded together to create Baltimore Beer Week, which runs from October 7th through the 17th. At present, there are a staggering 333 events (halfway to the beast! yay!) officially going on during those 10 days, with more being added daily. Go here for a full searchable list of the goings-on. Some of the featured events include:
The Opening Tap Celebration, at the Baltimore Museum of Industry on October 7 - The highlight of this event will be the celebrity tapping of the First Firkin provided by our Flagship Sponsor. This special firkin of Heavy Seas Loose Cannon will be the same recipe which won the 2010 Great British Beer Fest CAMRA award. Duff Goldman of Ace of Cakes will swing the 'Star Spangled Banger' to tap this first cask of beer. Don't miss this unique opportunity to meet founders, brewers, pub owners and pioneers of the craft beer movement. Enjoy beer tastings from our sponsors, including hard to find beers and special releases, all served in a keepsake commemorative glass. Attendees will also receive a special Baltimore Beer Week Passport. Appetizers provided by Mother's of Federal Hill.

Maryland Oktoberfest, at the Timonium Fairgrounds on October 9 - Great Maryland brewed beer, a homebrew contest, Beer Belly contest, German food, live music... The biggest & best local beer fest of the year - MD Oktoberfest brought to you by the Brewer's Assoc of MD.

a beer luncheon on the history of Baltimore brew, at Bertha's on October 11 - Please join guest panelists Rob Kasper- long time Baltimore Sun columnist, Tom Cizauskas- Yours For Good Fermentables blogger (and former brewer at Oxford Brewing Company), Brad Klipner- award winning blogger at and Sam Sessa – Baltimore Sun’s Midnight Sun columnist as they regal the malty past and hoppy future of brewing in "The Land of Pleasant Living". Luncheon Menu will be served family style. Meal includes 4 beer samplings (Bertha’s Best Bitter (on hand pump) and Victory Hop Devil IPA will be featured). Program is a three part series.

Blues and Brews Festival, at 8x10 on October 15 - The Blues and Brews Festival features a rare Baltimore Appearance of Guitar Blues Legend Bobby Parker, The horn-based Big Daddy Stallings and the Door Blowin' Blues sounds of Black Falls. Get your Tickets Early at the 8x10 Box Office, Ticketmaster or through the groups. Heavy Seas will be sponsoring this huge Beer Week Featured Event with special Heavy Seas Beers priced right all night long!

The 7th Annual Chesapeake Real Ale Festival, at the Pratt Street Ale House on October 16 - Get firked-up with over 40 firkins of the finest real ale, at the SPBW Chesapeake Real Ale Festival! Get a souvenir mug and unlimited sampling for only $35 per person when purchased in advance ($45 at door).

The Inaugural Baltimore Beer Festival, at 3100 Boston Street on October 17 - The very first Baltimore Beer Festival is taking place at the Waterfront Park in Canton on Boston Street. This setting promises to offer Baltimore and Regional beer lovers an opportunity to partake in an event like no other ever held in this area. With an anticipated participation of over 25 local, regional and international breweries, great live entertainment and some of the area’s best local restaurants, attendees will experience an event they will not soon forget. This anchor event to the exciting Baltimore Beer Week festivities will provide beer revelers the opportunity to enjoy unlimited sampling of more than 50 beers and at the same time helping local charities such as the Police Emerald Society and Friendly Sons of St. Patrick of Baltimore. There will be a homebrewers tent, live music by Donegal Xpress, Caffiene, and Dirt. The Ravens game will be shown on a big screen during the festival.

I... may have picked the wrong time to go on vacation. Or not.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

August 19 CSA share

This past week's share is going to be our last for the next month, as we'll be on the other side of the planet for Aussiecon 4. Our food will be in good hands, er, stomachs in our absence, however. I'm exceedingly pleased we got to sample a huge watermelon and ridiculous corn in this last batch:

The roll call: watermelon, corn, eggs, tomatoes, nuts, zucchini, bread, potatoes, plums, peaches, and apples.

And by ridiculous corn, I mean WEAPONIZED. As in, cultivated for consumption AND combat:

I give you the Corning Star - a variant of the Morning Star that is lethally delicious.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Big Boss Blanco Diablo

While we were at ReConStruction, we discovered a mostly wonderful gastro pub called the Oxford near the convention center. I had the Blanco Diablo with a rather amazing orange duck entree.

Big Boss Blanco Diablo, cc by-nc-sa image from John Cmar on Flickr

  • Alcohol: 4.5%
  • Serving: draft pint
Scoring (in solidarity with Charlie the Beer Guy):
  • Appearance: 5 - A deep, hazy golden-amber body, with a thin white head that fades quickly with no lace.
  • Nose: 2 - Barely present - predominately wheat and bready malt notes, with a hint of spice.
  • Taste: 7 - A bitter hit upfront, seeming to be a mix of spice, low-level hops, and a sourness it was hard to pinpoint. The wheat flavor comes out strongly in the middle and persists with the spice through the end, with some neutral fruity flavors, reminiscent of apple or pear.
  • Mouthfeel: 7 - Smooth, with moderate body and low carbination.
  • Holistic: 6 - A good and quite drinkable witbier, but a bit more bitter upfront than I was expecting from the style.
Overall: 27 - A solid, if not spectacular, example of the style. It certainly works well as a summer beer, and complimented my orange duck nicely. I wouldn't specifically seek this out, but would have it again if available.

mmmm... malty...

malted barley grain, cc by-nc-sa image from urtica on Flickr

In a follow-up to his previous article on hops, the DCist's John Fleury has moved on to tackle the topic of different malt varieties. Like last time, he lists specific beers that are made with each type, and suggests local DC establishments where one can find said brews. This is a great educational series - made all the better with local pub tie-ins - and I look forward to the next logical installment: that mysterious fermenter and occasional medical infectious adversary of mine, yeast.

(Another tip o' the hat to Thomas at Living Proof for pointing this out!)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

corn chowder with roasted poblanos

Upon seeing that we had been granted the boon of fresh corn a few weeks back, the Secret Lair's own Secretary of Artistic Propaganda suggested this recipe for corn chowder from the Mayo Clinic. I then made it with a few modifications, and it was good. Damn good.

  • 2 poblano or Anaheim chilies, halved lengthwise and seeded (I picked up 2 poblanos for this)
  • 2 or 3 Yukon gold or red-skinned potatoes, about 1 pound total weight, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks (I used 1 pound of mixed potatoes from my share)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup diced celery
  • 1/2 red bell pepper (capsicum), seeded and diced (as Laura loathes bell peppers, I substituted a banana pepper instead)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels (cut from about 4 ears corn) or frozen corn kernels, thawed
  • 2 cups vegetable stock or broth
  • 1 cup 1 percent low-fat milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (fresh coriander)
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano or 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

Preheat a gas grill or broiler (grill). Position the cooking rack 4 to 6 inches from the heat source.

Arrange the chilies skin-side down on the grill rack, or skin-side up on a broiler pan lined with aluminum foil. Grill or broil until the skins begin to blacken, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let steam until the skins loosen, about 10 minutes. Peel the chilies, discarding the blackened skin, and chop coarsely. Set aside.

Put the potatoes in a saucepan, add water to cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, uncovered, until the potatoes are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain and transfer to a small bowl. With a potato masher, partially mash the potatoes and set aside.

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, celery and bell pepper and saute until the vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and cook for 3 to 4 minutes longer. Stir in the roasted chilies and the partially mashed potatoes. Add the corn, vegetable stock, milk, pepper and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Simmer uncovered until the soup thickens, 25 to 30 minutes.

Ladle into warmed bowls and sprinkle with the cilantro and oregano. Serve immediately.

This was simply spectacular - hearty and flavorful. The substitution of the banana pepper for the bell variety certainly amped up the spice level, but it wasn't overwhelming. I will definitely keep this in my rotation of dishes to do when corn is plentiful.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

cherpumple cakepiecakepiecakepie

I had not heard of the epic, gluttonous dessert known as cherpumple before this past weekend, but I am now acquainted with it's glory. Behold!

cherpumple cakepiecakepiecakepie, cc by-nc-sa image from John Cmar on Flickr

What you see on display is a three-layered "cake":

  • top - apple pie baked into yellow cake
  • middle - cherry pie baked into white cake
  • bottom - pumpkin pie baked into spice cake

This was baked by Viv and Chooch, with inspiration from J.C. Hutchins, as a way to commemorate podcasting's 6th birthday with "six desserts in one."

But how did it taste? Somewhat obviously, like three pies and three cakes mixed together. The pumpkin pie in the spice cake was a wonderfully complimentary flavor blend, however. That bottom layer is worth making on it's own.

But, what of next year, when podcasting turns seven? Deep fried cherpumple... cherpumple with a cheesecake hat... the possibilities are manyfold. Disgusting, but manyfold.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Brother Ilchester's Summer Highball

Brother Ilchester's Summer Highball, cc by-nc-sa image from John Cmar on Flickr

The past few weeks have seen a robust crop of peaches and nectarines from our CSA shares. In pondering the latest fruits, and what to do with a forlorn bottle of triple sec, I came up with the following refreshing concoction:

Pit and slice the fruit. Place slices on a paper towel, and freeze for approximately 60 minutes. Mix triple sec, gin, and tonic water over the frozen fruit instead of ice.

This turned out quite well, and perfect for the ridiculously hot and humid weather of late. Having the cool fruit to munch on toward the end of the drink was wonderful.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

August 12 CSA share

We're back in the saddle, baby. (Noone says that in Baltimore... UNTIL NOW.)

The roll call: potatoes, cantaloupe, eggs, corn, tomatoes, peaches, apples, honey wheat bread, eggplant, squash, garlic, and onions.

Mmmm... garlic...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

damn you, Otakon... ReConStruction, less so

cc by-nc-nd image by Tasayu Tasnaphun on Flickr

I'm looking forward to our CSA share this week, mainly because we've missed the last two. Last week, we had a planned out-of-town stint for ReConStruction, and so had friends pick up and enjoy our share in our stead.

Two weeks back, however, I missed the pickup by 15 minutes, much to my chagrin. Given work schedules and Baltimore traffic, I knew this was bound to happen sooner or later... but this time, the delay was from an unexpected source. As I attempted a shortcut through downtown (it may sound ridiculous, but it usually works well) two Thursdays back, I found myself mired in traffic, road closures, and costumed people. I had forgotten that Otakon - the annual convention for all things Japanese pop culture, 25-30,000 people strong - had taken over the Inner Harbor.

I was pleased to see freakish geekery on display. I was not pleased that the traffic snarl made me miss our foodstuffs. That said, it all evens out... and in two days time, more produce will be mine. MWA HA HA H-*cough*

a new libation destination in DC

cc by-nc image from squidpants on Flickr

I just got wind of a new brew destination in DC to add to my future visitation list - the Meridian Pint. From iDine's description:

While new to the Columbia Heights bar scene, this haven of hops from John Andrade (Think Asylum!) is already topping the charts. This, thanks to lovers of creative pub fare washed down with fresh local and Mid-Atlantic craft brews. You see, Andrade considers the product of American craft brewers to be far superior to their European counterparts. What's more, as an environmentalist and "Eat Local" proponent, he knows "Drinking Local" by tapping kegs only, conserves energy while delivering the freshest possible flavor. Beyond being a brainchild born of high standards and lofty ideals, Meridian Pint is just a comfy place to grab some great food and suds. The interior makes use of reclaimed timbers and re-purposed materials, including carved wood from an old Pennsylvania church, and a 7' wooden gear from a turn-of-the-century New York factory. Offering more refined dining on the ground floor, Meridian goes rec-room casual in the basement, where patrons can watch sports; play pool, shuffleboard or darts; and, of course, enjoy the establishment's full roster of food and drink. That lineup includes upscale meat, seafood, vegetarian and vegan-friendly options for lunch and dinner, plus a super brunch on Saturday and Sunday. NOTE: AT LEAST 25 DRAFT BEERS AND 2 CASK BEERS ARE AVAILABLE AT ANY GIVEN TIME.

What this leaves out is that the Pint is one of the first bars in the area to adopt digital beer taps at the customers' tables, which falls into one of the Cmar Formulae: beer + technology = WIN.

cc by image from pthread1981 on Flickr

I need to plan a field trip. Not that I don't already have enough reasons to.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Father Ilchester, on the posts

Thanks to Adam, I'm finally set up to contribute to the Ilchester Road CSA community blog. The Ilchester Road site is where I snag my Breezy Willow share every week, and I think it a neat exercise that our mini-community is sharing recipes and experiences there - especially as we get to see each other every week in person, rather unlike other online groups.

I'll be crossposting the same produce and recipe commentary as I put up in this space, but I encourage you to check out the site - the other contributors have been adding some excellent gustatory content.

Monday, July 26, 2010

July 22 CSA share

Good news, everyone! More foodstuffs:

The roll call: bread, tomatoes, apple butter, bell peppers, methley plums, peaches, nectarines, summer squash, red pontiac potatoes, and variegated corn.

I'll need peruse more of Breezy Willow's recipes, I think... and there may be more bell pepper cocktails in my near future.

Friday, July 23, 2010

the Centennial Warrior Challenges Saaz-Fuggle in the land of Hallertau

Hops for making beer, a cc by image from nikonvscanon on Flickr

Many thanks to the gents over at Living Proof for pointing out this excellent post on hop varieties. The specific characteristics of different hop varieties are often a bit of a mystery to the average beer imbiber, and this piece does a great job breaking down the theory behind their use and describing the most popular kinds. Better yet, included are specific beer and DC-area pub suggestions to explore different brews associated with each type.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The End of History

The End of History, via

The End of History: The name derives from the famous work of philosopher Francis Fukuyama, this is to beer what democracy is to history. Fukuyama defined history as the evolution of the political system and traced this through the ages until we got the Western Democratic paradigm. For Fukuyama this was the end point of man’s political evolution and consequently the end of history. The beer is the last high abv beer we are going to brew, the end point of our research into how far the can push the boundaries of extreme brewing, the end of beer.

Scotland's Brewdog has been involved in an extreme beer "conflict" with German brewery Schorschbräu to see who can generate the highest ABV beer in existence. The fruits of this competition on Brewdog's side have recently included the 32% ABV Tactical Nuclear Penguin, as well as the 41% ABV Sink the Bismark. As of today, the final shot has officially been fired.

The End of History clocks in at 55% ABV, a nigh-biologically implausible achievement via fermentation alone. All you need to know about said brew is this:

  • it is a blond Belgian ale that has been infused with nettles from the Scottish Highlands and fresh juniper berries
  • only twelve 12-ounce bottles were made, each sheathed in the body of a dead-by-roadkill rodent by a taxidermist
  • 11 bottles were put on sale to the public today for £500-700 apiece - 7 in well-dressed stoats and 4 in sartorially-elegant squirrels

I... can't follow that up with anything meaningful. Brewdog has helpfully provided the following video, which may provide more context. Or not:

The End of History from BrewDog on Vimeo.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

July 15 CSA share

Thank you, weather and Comcast, for letting us finally have our bloody-buggering internet back. Ahem.

The roll call: eggs, plums, blueberries, peaches, corn, onions, cucumbers, eggplant, bread, and tomatoes.

And here, I was lamenting the fact that we had yet to receive any corn yet... and we got some in spades, as they say. Or, rather, ears.

This is also the closest I've ever gotten to a non-cooked eggplant. I keep squeezing its spongy, supple flesh... I'll say no more.

Monday, July 12, 2010

the Ultimate (and Epic Ultimate) Bell Pepper Cocktail

As previously noted, Laura detests the bell pepper, and I am both unexcited & not offended by it's inclusion in various foodstuffs. In picking several up with our recent CSA share, I took this as a challenge to do something deliciously different with what I affectionately refer to as Cthulhu's Filler Vegetable. (Seriously, it's in just about every frozen or easily prepared dish that includes some sort of "vegetable mix.") Giving this a bit of thought, I came to an obvious conclusion:

The bell pepper must be taken roughly by alcohol in a shadowy bedroom and spit forth delicious progeny as a result.

I wasn't sure what form this would take. My first inclination was to find precedent for soaking peppers in an alcoholic beverage, as I didn't expect anyone would be mad enough to attempt a mixed drink with this ubiquitous waxen seed-husk... but a bit of interweb sleuthing proved me wrong, oh so wrong. Behold! The Ultimate Bell Pepper Cocktail:

My initial version used the following:

  • 2 bell pepper rings
  • fresh mint leaves to approximate 1 tablespoon mint
  • 1 1/2 oz. grapefruit juice
  • 1/4 oz. lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 oz. Dogfish Head Blue Hen Vodka
  • 3/4 oz. Galliano liqueur

In a cocktail shaker, muddle the mint and one bell pepper ring with the grapefruit and lemon juice. Add ice, vodka and liqueur. Shake vigorously. Strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with bell pepper ring.

This ended up being far tastier than I expected. The profile of the pepper holds up well with the other flavors, and the result is a sweetly spicy taste of some complexity. Of course, enjoying this requires that one actually likes bell peppers. I offered Laura a sip, and her immediate response was "OMG IT'S HIDEOUS" and to gag and wave her hands in front of her mouth until I brought her a palate-flushing glass of ginger ale.

The original poster noted that serving such a drink out of a bell pepper seemed to be a messy and inconvenient idea... so I clearly had to go there. Behold! The Epic Ultimate Bell Pepper Cocktail:

  • a whole bell pepper with a relatively balanced bottom
  • fresh mint leaves to approximate 1 tablespoon mint
  • 1 1/2 oz. grapefruit juice
  • 1/4 oz. lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 oz. Dogfish Head Blue Hen Vodka
  • 3/4 oz. Galliano liqueur

Slice the top off of the pepper in one even layer, and gently core the central seed area out with a paring knife. Cut the central stem out from the top and discard. In a cocktail shaker, muddle the mint and the remaining pepper top with the grapefruit and lemon juice. Add ice, vodka and liqueur. Shake vigorously. Strain into the body of the bell pepper and serve.

Although admittedly gimmicky, this would be interesting for someone to try who was both "hosting a party" and had a surplus of bell peppers. The added advantage is that cleanup would be both easy and nutritious.

Now, to finish this alcohol-impregnated pepper...

Sunday, July 11, 2010

July 8 CSA share

And so it came to pass that there was a CSA share who's contents were not entirely to our liking:

The roll call: plums, blueberries, eggs, bread, tomatoes, peaches, cucumbers, bell peppers, red potatoes, and summer squash.

You see, Laura is not a fan of bell peppers.

By "not a fan," I do mean "revolted by their taste and texture in any method of preparation." That noted, when I picked up the share, I chose not to trade them for something else. (This was only partially motivated by the fact that the trade-in bin only contained cabbage, which we still have plenty of.) While not a massive devotee of the bell pepper myself, I was determined to find interesting way to use said vegetable. Experiments in that vein shall be disclosed shortly.

The rest of the share, of course, clearly meets our global approval. In addition to the usual recipes up on Breezy Willow's main site, I've discovered that our specific CSA drop-off community has it's own blog for recipe sharing, which kind of blows my mind in a meta-algorithmic-subdivision way. Ow.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Creamy Fruit Salad

Finding myself with a wondrous surplus of fruit in our July 1 CSA share, I heavily adapted this recipe for creamy fruit salad as a fruit-based side dish. I used:

  • 4 peaches, diced and pits removed
  • 8 small plums, diced and pits removed
  • 2 cups blueberries
  • 1/4 cup trail mix
  • 1 (1 1/2 ounce) box sugar-free instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 1/2 cup lime juice
  • 1/2 cup water

Combine the peaches, plums, blueberries and trail mix in a large mixing bowl. In small mixing bowl, combine pudding mix, water and lime juice with a wire whisk until smooth. Add pudding mixture to fruit. Mix gently until thoroughly coated. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

This was incredibly easy and quick to make, and the result was quite tasty. The lime juice added a strong flavor base, but bordered on overwhelming - for the next go-around, I may use 1/3 cup lime juice and 2/3 cup water.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

June 24 and July 1 CSA shares

In which I show you our produce pr0n in order to catch up:

The roll call for the June 24 share: summer squash, bread, cherries, blueberries, new white potatoes, lettuce, peach jam, broccoli, mushrooms, and cucumbers.

The roll call for the July 1 share: plums, blueberries, new white potatoes, cabbage, sunflowers, eggs, tomatoes, bread, peaches, green beans, and cucumbers.

As usual, Breezy Willow has been posting some excellent recipe suggestions. Instead of briefly mentioning some of what we've been trying in this post, I'm going to explode several of the recipes out to their own individual posts... selfishly, because that will help me keep track of things better, and look them up easier for the future. And, of course, for your own personal culinary edification.

I've noted a couple of interesting things as we enter the second month of this grand experiment. The first is that there has been very little wastage thus far. Apart from a head of lettuce and a few squash early on that succumbed to wilt and mold, we been doing a surprisingly (to me) good job of keeping up with the produce and using it in a timely fashion. I'm also pleased to see that we're still excited to try new and creative things with what we get, as opposed to "I'm tired it's late here's a whole cucumber *crunch*" This bodes well for the sustainability of us actually, you know, cooking on a more regular basis.

Also, if our kitchen knives were sapient, they'd report feeling as though they were transferred from a nunnery to a brothel for all the use they have been getting since June started.

It's... best I don't extend that analogy. In any way.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

eating healthy on less than $1 a day, or epic coupon gaming

Elusive Quaker Tearpad Coupon for $3.00 off when you buy any 5 Quaker products, cc by-sa image by on Flickr

This fellow was able to eat healthily for 30 days on nothing more than $27.08 and an incredible amount of coupon jockeying. Jeffery's "Eat Well on $1 a Day" challenge turns out to be less about finding coupons for healthy food, and more about gaming the bizarre world that is the grocery coupon industry. Noting that "getting good deals while grocery shopping is a game," he set forth the rules of his month as such:

1. I will begin on May 1 and will have no accumulated food of any kind. I have $31 to spend ($1 for each day of the month). I can start buying food on May 1 and can not exceed the $31. I must document the cost of the food with receipts.

2. I can only use 2 computers to print coupons. Although I have access to more which would make this challenge much easier, we agreed that not everyone will have access to a lot of computers. However, we also agreed that anyone reading this has access to at least one computer and should be able get access to another one using a bit of creativity.

3. I can only use 2 inserts from the Sunday paper each week. Although I have access to many more than this (I usually pick up anywhere from 3 to 5 copies for free from the local coffee shop alone each week), we decided that not everyone would have access to dozens of inserts. We agreed that anyone could get the coupon inserts from at least 2 Sunday papers with a bit of creativity. I am allowed to use up to 2 of previous week’s coupon inserts that I already happen to have.

4. I can use as many coupons as I want that I can get in the grocery store where they are available to everyone.

5. I can only buy food from retail outlets (grocery stores, drug stores, food markets, etc). I can’t supplement what I buy at the store with free food from trees, dumpster diving, friends, food banks, donations, growing my own, etc.

6. I can only use deals that anyone else would have access to getting.

What follows is his fascinating day-by-day account of how the challenge played out. To set the theme for his process, it's worth noting that his first purchase was for cleaning solution, just to get the coupons at check-out who's net worth in food was more than he paid for the cleaner. (As with the rest of the excess product he acquired over this month - a surprising amount - he donated it to a local food bank.) While most people won't have the time or patience to equal this feat, it does show that with some ingenuity and research, frugal shopping for healthy food is possible by gaming the system. Go here to read his account, as well as his follow-up experiments in the weeks after.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

June 10 CSA share

And so it came to pass that real life did throw a flaming, tar-coated curveball my way, and I was forced to take the time to catch it with appropriate fire precautions. As such, while we got our second CSA share on time, we were forced to be out of town on family business for the third. All that noted, it is time for life, and food, to get back on track. Our second share:

The roll call: radishes, strawberries, spring onions, eggs, bread, white potatoes, peas, zucchini, and swiss chard.

The June 17 share, which a friend of ours picked up on our behalf, consisted of: cherries, lettuce, spring onions, white potatoes, squash, cucumbers, peas, bread, and eggs. We ended up with the lettuce, onions, potatoes, squash, cucumbers, and peas on our return from travel.

Given family issues, time was more limited than usual, resulting in us using the above in very basic ways. We didn't get a chance to try the week two or week three recipe suggestions, although there are some excellent ideas therein. Also appreciated were their produce storage suggestions. A few experiments:

  • baked beets - based on the week one recipe, I used beets, squash, onion and garlic. I haved the onions and cut the squash into rounds, which worked well for both. The beets I left whole, which was an issue - although they turned out acceptably well, they were large enough that halving them would have improved their "doneness" significantly. Although a time investment, this is an incredibly easy veggie dish, and I look forward to revisiting it in the future.
  • chard and onion mix - sauteing chopped chard with diced onions and butter over several minutes of medium heat was a quick and extremely flavorful vegetable option.
  • squash zucchini soup - I adapted Paul's recipe, opting not to skin the veggies first, adding a copious amount of parsley and cilantro for the herbs, and flavoring with sea salt. The result was refreshingly different and damn good. Just... don't start prep at 8:30pm if you want any sort of "reasonable" dinnertime.

Tomorrow comes share four, and we will be ready. Oh, yes.

Monday, June 7, 2010

June 3 CSA share

Inspired by the experiences of friends I trust in the culinary arts, and the fact that Breezy Willow Farm came recruiting at Sinai, we have joined a community supported agriculture program. Behold, our first share:

The roll call: beets, radishes, strawberries, eggs, bread, squash, spinach, and two kinds of lettuce.

The grander experiment here is in the forced cooking that will result from the influx of fresh foodstuffs each week. While I enjoy cooking, busy schedules and low energy levels lead to me normally relying on quick meal plans that involve, as Thom likes to point out, more "heating" than actually "cooking." One of my intentions behind posting my CSA experiences here will be to see exactly how I end up using the produce we get. It may not be amazing or epic in terms of dishes and recipes, but it will be interesting to see play out. Breezy Willow is being extraordinarily helpful in this regard, as they are posting recipes each week that match up with the contents of that week's share.

Which is good, because beets and I have had a Mutual Avoidance Agreement for some time... and now, I have a bunch.

Since getting the above share on Thursday, the following experiments have occurred:

  • strawberry radish salad - chopped strawberries, radishes, and lettuce tossed with a lime juice/olive oil emulsion. Basic, easy, and damn good. The addition of nuts and a crumbled cheese, such as blue or feta, would make this better.
  • radish green pasta - sauteed radish greens in a dash of olive oil and butter, mixed with cooked fusilli pasta, dried garlic powder, chunks of breaded chicken, and shredded mozzarella cheese. The flavor profile was fair, but this ended up being far too dry, namely due to lack of having any mayo or adequate dressing on-hand to use as a base.
  • Irish cheese, apple, and lettuce sandwiches - also basic, easy, and damn good.
  • scrambled eggs with sauteed spinach, onions, bacon, and shredded cheddar cheese - continuing the basic, easy, and damn good trend.
  • grated beets with onion - I used Madhur Jaffrey's Grated Beets with Shallots recipe as a base, substituting a medium yellow onion for the shallots (being shallot-less), a 4 ounce can of minced green chilis for the hot chili pepper, and sea salt instead of table salt. The result was surprisingly subtle and flavorful, and I expect to return to this again if beets continue to show up in future shares.

Looking ahead, I seeing squash soup and baked beets attempts in my near future. And then, the next share will be upon us... Until then, I'll point out that not only is Ryn discussing her CSA shares and freezer cooking plans, but Dree is also documenting her own foray into a CSA program, currently in her third week.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

two new Balto-DC beer destinations

While I haven't made time to hit all the excellent brewpubs in the Baltimore-DC corridor, that can't stop my glee (yes - unadulterated glee, I tell you) at discovering two new tap sites in the area:

The Biergarten Haus promises to be the District's first traditional beer garden. In addition to a solid lineup of German brews, the Haus promises expansive indoor and outdoor seating, as well as mounted ram's head... because one cannot drink German unless it is in the presence of a beheaded, glassy-eyed ruminant. The official grand opening was slated for May 14, but this appears to have been put on hold for a couple of weeks. Once it does, I sense a field trip to DC in my future.

Biergarten Haus, cc by-sa image by jsmjr on Flickr
Biergarten Haus, cc by-sa image by jsmjr on Flickr

A bit closer to me will be De Kleine Duivel, which is slated to open next month in the Hampden area of Baltimore. From their Facebook page:

"A Classic Belgian Brasserie" Featuring a large selection of Belgian beers, boutique wines & spirits, and a select menu of classic Flemish-French dishes, all served in an Art Nouveau inspired setting.

Reports are that they aim to have 10-12 brews on tap, and another 30 in bottles. All will be imported from Belgium, with not a "Belgian-style" American beer on the premises.

Ex-cellent... *rubs hands together maniacally*

[a tip o' the hat to the always-excellent Beer in Baltimore for reporting on these two establishments]

Monday, April 19, 2010

Robot Brewery Tour

I'll let Dogfish Head's site speak for itself on this one:

'Robot Brewery Tour,' a short film starring Dogfish Head's Sam Calagione and actor/musician Will Oldham premiered at the 2010 Off-Centered Film Fest at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, Texas on Saturday, April 17th.

This film stars the musician and actor Will Oldham as a reporter and brewery founder Sam Calagione as a robot. It's a brewery tour film wrapped around a dystopian vision of a near future in which robots have taken over Dogfish Head and reduced our diverse and colorful American craft brewing landscape to a monochromatic world of a single commoditized generic beer. Scary stuff!

This story almost came to life here in the U.S. during the 1970s until small, independent craft breweries, like Dogfish Head and so many others, revitalized the domestic beer scene.

Will Oldham is a Kentucky-based singer, musician and actor who has performed under a few variations of the Palace name, including Palace Brothers, Palace Songs, Palace Music, and simply Palace. He is currently touring under the Bonnie Prince Billy moniker and has performed at Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats at least twice in the past decade - most recently in April of 2010 when 'Robot Brewery Tour' was shot on location at Dogfish's Milton, Delaware brewery. Want to read more about Will? Check out this article from The New Yorker.

Brilliant satire? Scathing social commentary? Or just mildly amusing buffoonery? You be the judge:

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Farpoint 2010 Libations

This year's Farpoint saw the same impressive libation list as last year. At our traditional Saturday night dinner, I took the chance to tray a few things I didn't get to last time around.

  • Klingon Disruptor: Jim Beam, Patron Tequila, cinnamon schnapps - The table speculated that based on the drink's name, it might be a massive person in full Klingon garb with a keen interest in sudden proctology. For my sake, this turned out not to be the case. This ended up being a good mix of flavors, but slightly disappointing - the cinnamon schapps clearly dominated the flavor profile, with the tequila being notable beneath, and any bourbon contribution being lost in the shuffle. It's not something I'd immediately come back to.

Klingon Disruptor from Farpoint 2010

  • Vulcan Mind Meld: 1 part ouzo, 1 part rum (151 proof) - This is a brilliant mix, and obviously not for the unwary. While it packs the alcoholic punch you'd expect, the flavors are very strong and enjoyable. The anise predominates, and oddly competing citrus and rum notes fighting it out in the background. Highly recommended.

Vulcan Mind Meld from Farpoint 2010

I meant to end with the Talos IV Coffee (3 parts Grand Marnier, 1 part coffee), although a "mixing incident" resulted in about 20 parts coffee instead of one. The vaguely orange-tasting caffeine held promise, however. I'll get you next time, Talos IV...

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Beer Hunter: The Movie - trailer

Writer Michael Jackson was perhaps the single most important figure in the history of craft brewing. Beer Hunter, a documentary about his life and work, is set to be released later this year. From the official site:

Beer Hunter: The Movie features never-before-seen footage of Michael Jackson hunting some of the great beers of Europe and the United States. Woven into the footage from interviews with leading brewers and beer enthusiasts, is the remarkable story of Michael's life, from his days as a television journalist, to his remarkable achievements and contributions to the world of craft beer and whisky, and through his secret struggle with Parkinson's Disease.

Set to release in September of 2010 in conjunction with the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, proceeds from the film will benefit the National Parkinson's Foundation.

More information about Michael and this charitable film can be found here, and the latest trailer is below:

Beer Hunter Movie Trailer from John Richards on Vimeo.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Heavy Seas Oyster Fest - Rescheduled

Due to the impressive weekend snow, Clipper City has rescheduled the Heavy Seas Oyster Fest from today to next Saturday, February 13, from 12-4. They point out that this may result in ticket availability, so check out their informational post if you don't have tickets and want to attend. While this brings it into conflict with my obligations at Farpoint, and means I won't be able to make it, I highly recommend the event - Clipper City gatherings at their brewery are excellent, and not to be missed!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Baltimore Winter Restaurant Week

Apparently, 'tis the season for restaurant weeks, as the Baltimore Winter Restaurant Week starts today. From the site:

The most delicious week of the winter is back, as Baltimore’s restaurants offer special three-course menus for Restaurant Week. At select restaurants, enjoy a variety of three-course dinners, in just about any cuisine that strikes your fancy, for only $35.10! Or try three-course lunches at select restaurants for just $20.10.

It's running through February 7 (again, I ponder the mystery of how 14 days can be marketed as a week... sorry, poor fortnight, but someday the public will remember your terminologic awesomeness), and a full list of restaurants and other details can be found here, and are calendared below.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Howard County Restaurant Weeks

Starting this Monday, Howard County is having their awkwardly-named "winter restaurant weeks" (next time, people, go with "restaurant fortnight"). From their site:

January 18 to January 31, 2010
Menus range from $10.10 to $40.10

This winter, Howard County's top chef's are serving up savings and local dining experiences with an international twist. With 25+ participating restaurants, it will be easy to visit your favorite restaurants and try new ones too, all at great prices!

Indulge in the best French, Italian, Latin, Asian, Eclectic, Continental and English pub fare at fabulous prix fixe chef’s menus from $10.10 to $40.10.

The participating restaurant list is impressive, and can be found here. I'm particularly impressed that they've included a compilation of farms and other local food and beverage resources to support.

Dammit, just as I was getting back into the groove of eating at home more for the new year... I guess that can wait until February. ;)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Dogfish Head 2010 Beer Releases

Dogfish Head has put up their scheduled beer releases for 2010:

Year Round Beers

Seasonal Beers

Occasional Rarities (limited quantites, while supplies last)

The above is also available as a full color pdf calendar. It's clear that their recent brewery expansion is paying off in terms of capacity, as they have an impressive roster of their "occasional rarities" that they intend to keep producing. While I'm mildly disappointed that the Raison D'Extra continues to be on production hiatus, the fact that the excellent Palo Santon Marron has a place on their year-round list more than makes up for that.

The one new offering this year is the My Antonia, which is a continually-hopped Imperial Pilsner with an ABV of 7.5%. A bit of history from their site:

Sam brewed My Antonia at Birra del Borgo (hope you can read Italian) outside Rome, Italy with owner/brewer Leonardo DiVencenzo in October of 2008.

My Antonia (named after the Willa Cather read), is a continually-hopped imperial pilsner. This beer was brewed and distributed by Birra del Borgo. A small quantity was sent over to the United States.

In June of 2009, Leonardo came over to Delaware and brewed our Namaste beer with us at our Rehoboth Beach brewpub. What goes around, comes around.

And... for 2010, we plan to brew and package My Anotonia for the U.S. market! The beer will be released in both April and November.

Dogfish has released several iterations of the Imperial Pilsner style over the last few years, including the (unfortunately named) Golden Shower, Golden Revolution, and Golden Era. Having sampled both the Shower and the Era in the past, I know they can nail this style well. At least there's just "a few" other quality beers to tide me over until April...

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Dogfish Head Sah'tea, and a specifically raised glass

I cracked this open tonight in order to raise a glass, in spirit, with Tee.

*raises glass*

  • Alcohol: 9%
Scoring (in solidarity with Charlie the Beer Guy):
  • Appearance: 5 - A deep, hazy golden body, with a sudsy white head that fades to a thin lace.
  • Nose: 8 - Quite complex, with fruity juniper components, a mix of spices (predominantly chai related, & ginger seemed particularly apparent), and a honey-sugary sweetness.
  • Taste: 8 - Very similar to the scent profile. Honey and sugar notes predominate upfront, with a mixed spicy and juniper-fruity kick through the middle to the finish, which has a hint of clove. The alcohol is well-concealed.
  • Mouthfeel: 7 - Moderate body with low to medium level of carbonation that works very well. Sweetly cloying, leading to a slight sticky aftertaste.
  • Holistic: 8 - Very smooth and drinkable for its ABV, and an incredibly interesting mix of flavors. The aftertaste and strong flavor profile do limit how much I'd be interested in enjoying in one sitting.
Overall: 36 - Tee recently mentioned that this was his new favorite Dogfish Head beer, and while it doesn't eclipse my ridiculous fandom of the as-yet-unreviewed 120 Minute IPA, it comes close. I've never had a brew in the Sahti style before, and Dogfish's take on it is certainly makes it unique. I'll be definitely seeking this out as a beer for special occasions, working best with a fruit-based dessert pairing or alone. For more on the Sahti style and Dogfish's take on it, I refer you to the following:

Friday, January 1, 2010

toasting the new year with other nog creations

Happy New Year!

*raises glass*

With some nog remaining from my Irish Christmas Piracy, I decided to try the beer/eggnog combination with something suitably seasonal on the brew end. I chose Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale for this, and went with the following proportions:

  • 1 part egg nog
  • 3 parts beer

Although it generated a lovely layering effect with a careful pour, mixing was necessary to get the full blended taste. Unsurprisingly, it was rather good, striking me primarily as a pumpkin-spiced milkshake with mild alcohol notes. That said, the true flavor nuances of the Ale were ruined by the egg nog, making this a wasteful thing to do with a wonderfully crafted brew, and not worth repeating in the future. Using a less flavorful (and cheaper) beer, like a Guinness Stout, would likely give a similarly tasty drink and possible improve the beer involved.

Having a tiny bit of nog left, I then tried it mixed with Dogfish Head Chocolate Vodka as follows:

  • 1 part egg nog
  • 3 parts chocolate vodka

This make for a tasty drink, although the lack of smokey notes from a bourbon or the spice character of a rum did not elevate it to a "must try again" holiday status. In other words, when it comes to nog-based holiday drink...

The Irish Christmas Pirate wins. As well it should.