Category Archives: Beer

my week in the bay, pt. 1 (in pictures, over a month later)

When I left Mano Farm, I hopped up north for about a week and a half before returning to NJ and ultimately making the move to Maine. My week in San Francisco and Berkeley was delicious and invigorating, and I was finally able to sit down and share it with all of you.

My first meal in SF: a wild boar sausage from Rosamunde with an Anchor Steam to wash it down. Also, pickles. My decision to go for the boar was undoubtedly influenced by Michael Pollan’s recount of hunting one down in The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

Mano Farm zucchini, tomatoes and onions travelled up the coast with me to provide this nommy breakfast, coupled with a poached egg and some toast, all consumed in the very lovely, very French apartment of my friend Rachel who had visited me in Ojai a few weeks before my northward trek.

Tomato, manchego, red onion, parsley pizza at Arizmendi, a collective bakery where they churn out tons of scones and breads and muffins and cookies, and focaccia (oh my) but only one pizza variety per day. When I went to the bathroom, I saw a huge garbage pail labeled “Compost” filled to the brim with fennel fronds for tomorrow’s ‘za. Also spotted were countless 50 pound bags of wheat grown and milled in Northern California and a very attractive staff.

My hands still encrusted with Ojai soil, here I am sharing a brew with my friend Connor on his balcony in Berkeley. I don’t remember what this particular beer was, just that we had it with hummus and tortilla chips and called it dinner.

Dinner with Kristina and Rachel was a group effort: Kristina provided the tortellini while Rachel and I threw together the sauce and salad. Topped with some goat’s milk parmesan from a farmer’s market and chased with Lagunitas Little Sumpin’ Wild, dinner was a success.

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colorado’s finest

I returned to Dulles International Airport at 6:15 am and got through security by 6:30. My flight was destined to leave at 8:20, so I settled down for the 1.5 hour wait until boarding time. We boarded the plane and all was well until we got news that a deboarding was necessary, along with a two hour delay. I am 99% positive that I was on the same plane that abandoned me in the airport yesterday. How did United go through a 24-hour period without switching it out? Awful.

Anyway, I spent a portion of the two hour delay searching my iPhone’s internet for suggestions of what to do during a substantial layover in Denver International, and luckily someone on the BeerAdvocate forums pointed me in the direction of the New Belgium Hub. After crossing two moving walkways and stopping briefly in the ladies’ room, I reached the hub in its full glory. I have only ever had Fat Tire and the Mothership Wit, so I tasted the Ranger IPA, the 1554 Black Ale, and the Sunshine Wheat. The Ranger IPA  won.

Blue Paddle Brat and the Ranger IPA at the Denver International Airport

To go with my beer, I ate the Blue Paddle Brat, a bratwurst infused with New Belgium’s Blue Paddle Pilsner and topped with peppers, onions and sauerkraut. I added whole lotta mustard and, paired with the very crispy fries, it was the perfect stomach filler before Tucson bombards me with Mexican food.

After a brief perusal of the menu after I ate, I read the description for the “Lips of Faith” tap. The product is always changing but the brewery often utilizes wild fermentation methods and fruit juice. Sounded like the making of lambic to me, so I asked for a tulip of the current Lips of Faith brew. The bartender wouldn’t give it to me until I tasted it, and babes, it was impossible to discriminate it from a Framboise. Happiness is 8.5% ABV fruity effervescence.

my night at the westin hotel

So, my flight to Denver was postponed and ultimately canceled. I was  pretty flustered, especially since my bags seemed to get twenty pounds heavier every hour I had them in tow (Thanks, gravity!), but managed to book a new flight and get shuttled to the nearest hotel to stay for the night. I would have bothered my friends to house me, but the trek back into DC would have required three more hours of lugging my crap all over town and a bunch of guap for transportation, so I opted for the free shuttle to the free hotel room with a $15 food voucher.

As soon as I arrived, I sprawled on my king-sized mattress and flipped on “No Reservations: Sardinia.” Anthony Bourdain proceeded to whet my appetite with flashing images of the most amazing food from the other large island neighboring Italy . If watching a goat being roasted over an open spit wasn’t enough to excite my tummy, the meat-roaster proceeded to engulf a hunk of lardo in flames and let the fat drip onto the goat. Then, I was tortured through watching a lot of people (who were not me) eat an insanely elaborate farm homestead meal, capitalizing on Sardinia’s agriturismo industry. Why, Anthony, why? Regardless, Sardinia is now firmly planted at the top of my list of culinary destinations. I mean, people there carry around special knives in their pocket to facilitate consumption of cured meat and local cheese. That is where I belong. Also, just check out the description of the cuisine on Wikipedia.

Hunger in tow, I moseyed down to the Padella, the hotel bar and restaurant, for some food and perhaps a brew or two. (By the way, whenever I say or think “hotel bar,” the Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me” gets stuck in my head because I always misheard “cocktail bar” as “hotel bar” as a kid.) I had the tomato-basil soup, ravioli with rabbit ragu, and chocolate lava cake. In retrospect, I should have just gone for the burger I was craving because my attempt at exploring new territory didn’t go so well.

Ravioli with Rabbit Ragu

Chocolate Lava Cake

The rundown:

1) I was in the bathroom when my soup arrived and by the time I returned it had cooled off a bit too much. Lukewarm soup ain’t pretty (or delicious).

2)  The ravioli were actually pierogies. Thinking back to the description midway through the meal, I remember reading “smoked potato ravioli,” but for some reason, my mind didn’t make the connection to pierogies upon reading this. I think I spent the majority of time eating the ravioli trying to figure out why the ricotta was much grainier than it was creamy. It was like biting into a sweet pickle when you are expecting  a sour one.

3) The rabbit ragu had a bone in it! Eating rabbit is something I find to be at once troublesome and absolutely not troublesome. Like most animals, rabbits are adorable, so getting over eating the Velveteen Rabbit and Little Bunny Foo-Foo is a little hard for me. But beyond that, they reproduce so quickly and eat vegetarian so I feel like they are quite a sustainable food source. But when I am plowing through a maybe ravioli-maybe pierogi textural battle, the last thing I expected was to find a bone (an unidentifiable one at that) amidst a bunch of connective tissue in the sea of pulled rabbit meat. Blegth.

4) It was clear that the ravioli were old because the pasta at the seams was really dense and chewy. They had dried out a bit too much, either in the refrigerator or freezer, and were an unpleasant mouthful.

5) The chocolate lava cake was absolutely delicious except it was supposed to come topped with ginger ice cream and instead it came with vanilla bean. Screw that! I wanted to reminisce about eating dark chocolate + ginger Green & Black’s bars as a form of caffeination during late night study jams, but no. I was not afforded that moment of nostalgia.

Overall, though, my time bellied up to the Padella bar was great, and the attentive staff and $3 happy hour beers were only the beginning. Most importantly, I sat next to a woman who had been a stewardess nearly half a century ago, and her stories about dating members of the Brooklyn Dodgers and wearing girdles so she “wouldn’t jiggle” made the entire meal go down a lot smoother.

dc: 41 hours (and counting)

I am currently using the convenient, complimentary WiFi at the Dulles Airport outside of Washington, DC, waiting for a convenient, complimentary update on the status of my flight, which has been undergoing an inconvenient, complimentary part repair for the past four hours. Scheduled to leave at 11:03, we just got an update that we will receive another update at noon. So instead of freaking out, I am going to post this entry and then try to figure out how (and if) I’m going to get to Tucson.

First stop was Ben’s Chili Bowl on U Street, a DC landmark with really great music. I went with my friend Abby who I haven’t seen since October. The two of us spent Summer ’09 in DC together, and it was great to reconnect with her in the city we got to know together.

Chili Cheese Fries

Chili Half-Smoke

The next day, I hung out with my Haverford friends Waleed and Kate, and some of their friends from home. They all live in Arlington, VA, and made the trek out to DC proper to chill. Falafel for lunch with the whole crew and Ethiopian for dinner with Waleed. Both meals were eaten streetside, but the showcase of the falafel experience was definitely the cement being poured a few meters away.

Falafel with a Side of Cement

Lalibela Sampler Plate, complete with hard-boiled egg and a bunch of delicious stews

Ethiopian beer! Waleed!

balmorhea, philly beer

I been bad. The transition from San Diego to NJ to Haverford was a tumultuous one, and I failed to find any free moments for myself or “one palate.” It’s time to amend. Earlier this week, I went to see Balmorhea at Johnny Brenda’s in Fishtown, Philly, PA. Impressed, I was, with the venue, the band (omgz), and, most importantly, the beer selection.

My night began with the Sly Fox O’Reilly’s Stout. When I think “stout,” I anticipate a heavy nose and a thick, deep flavor profile. The head on this beer was really light, and the brew itself was ridden with notes of chocolate and coffee, however, these notes were not as accented as I would have liked. Overall, I was pretty “meh” about this effort by Sly Fox.

Next, I had a Stoudt’s Scarlet Lady. When I saw this on the menu, I asked if it was a red ale because I recently discovered how much I like red ales. The bartendress replied with a coy “Yes” and told me that I looked like a “red ale kinda gal, even in the dark,” whatever that means, so I ordered it. Anyway, BeerAdvocate calls it an ESB, or Extra Special/Strong Bitter, which is not red ale. Despite her lack of knowledge and potentially creepy comment, I enjoyed this beer, even with a mouth that was expecting a red ale. It was much milder and less sour than I had hoped, but it served its purpose.

I can’t begin to describe my excitement for exploring Main Line and Philadelphia-area bars and bar-venues like Johnny Brenda’s. On the train ride home from this show, I encountered an overly friendly Philly native who took to recommending some places to me, including the Tattooed Mom where he works. Commence creation of “To Do”/”To Drink” list.

it’s just like fruit, but better

When I was a kid, I would take overripe bananas and turn them into “banana soup”: mashed bananas with cinnamon, milk, and sometimes a small handful of raisins. I graduated to freezing them on popsicle sticks and eating them as banana pops. After seeing a blog entry offering the idea to blend the bananas once frozen, banana ice cream it was. I have also been experimenting with mix-ins like cookie dough, nuts, peanut butter, and chocolate chips. All are delicious, esp. cookie dough.

Today, I found a bag of frozen pineapple chunks in my freezer. With my days in San Diego dwindling, I am determine to eat all of my food so I don’t leave my host family with a mess of weird food they will never eat. So, with a bottle of Malibu Coconut Rum in one hand, a blender in the other, and banana “ice cream” on the brain, I made a Pineapple-Coconut Rum Sorbet for dessert and served it with one of my mother’s Coconut Biscotti.

Pineapple-Coconut Rum Sorbet

3 c. frozen pineapple chunks
1/8 c. coconut rum

Blend these ingredients together until it reaches your desired consistency. Feel free to deviate, but I used the following ratio:

1 cup: approx. 1 tablespoon:: pineapple chunks: rum

It will probably be necessary to start and stop the blender a few times to stir. I even had to push the chunks down so the blender blade would act on it.

Now that I’ve moved from banana ice cream to pineapple sorbet, I am getting excited about all of the other possibilities. Strawberries and cream sherbet? (FYI: I thought sherbet was “sherbert” until I typed this blog entry.) Blueberry sorbet with lavender honey and lemon zest? Avocado, lime, cucumber? Spicy, salty mango? Maybe I’ll even make some mustard ice cubes and blend them into ice cream to top gazpacho like this NPR recipe suggests. Gotta catch ’em all!

And speaking of frozen delights, I found this idea for the Beer Popsicle today on The Daily What and some variant is in my near future. I have a couple beers that need to be consumed before I leave, and completing this chore in popsicle form sounds, well, delightful.

the pretzel motif

The headboard of my parents’ bed is made primarily  of (maybe walnut?) wood but a cut-out on either side is filled with wicker. When I was young, I used to scratch on this wicker with my mom’s hairbrush, “playing the pretzel,” as I called it. Even though I am now fully aware of the wickerdom of their headboard, whenever I see it, I think about and crave pretzels. I like pretzels in pretty much every form I’ve ever eaten them: soft or hard; covered in chocolate or that “yogurt” stuff I’m pretty sure is mislabeled white chocolate; dipped in peanut butter, cream cheese, or mustard. Over the past week and a half or so, I have encountered some of the best pretzels:  a couple soft ones from breweries and one crunchy one from Pennsylvania.

Last week, I went to Stone Brewery for a tour, a meal, and a showing of Monty Python & the Holy Grail. The dinner menu is pretty pricey, so my party stuck to a collection of appetizers, one of which were the Stone-Style Soft Pretzels. They were covered in a layer of sea salt but were somehow not overly salty. The salt instead created a wonderful crunch in every bite around the fluffy, warm center. One of the two dips was a cheddar cheese sauce which was entirely whatevs, but the Stone Pale Ale Open Seed Spicy Brown Mustard was otherworldly. The citrusy breadiness (trust me) of Stone’s Pale Ale added such deep flavor dimensions to the mustard that even when the pretzels were long gone, I was left licking every last grain of mustard out of that ramekin.

During the movie, I bought another pretzel at the concession stand to use as a ladle for the quarter-cup of mustard I intended to eat. Before trying this open seed mustard, I had been pretty ‘meh’ on mustards that strayed far from Grey Poupon, but now that I’ve discovered the power of adding beer to spicy mustard, there is no stopping me. My new goal is to create a series of beer mustards to serve with homemade soft pretzels. Maybe I’ll even find some smoked salt to throw on some of the pretzels to pair well with a Stone Smoked Porter mustard or bacon beer mustard. A girl can dream.

This specimen is La Jolla Brew House’s “Perfect Pretzel.” According to my fellow diners, it is the perfect example of a soft German pretzel. I have no idea what a soft German pretzel should taste like, so I cannot vouch for this comment, but I can vouch for the pretzel in general. It had the perfect outer crust and an excellent texture without too much salt. So fresh and warm that its steam burned my hands. Them third-degrees were well worth it, though, especially when the affected hand was headed towards the mustard (a whole grain/dijon mixture) with a big hunka pretzel in tow.

Penny and Jay gave me one of these individually-wrapped pretzels the other night; they had received a 5-lb. box of the gems from a friend who had them shipped from the factory in Lancaster, PA. Hammond’s is the oldest continuously running pretzel factory in the country, alive and thriving since 1931. These dudes know how to make a pretzel. Besides the fabulous chunks of sea salt that grace the surface, there is a fair amount of salt mixed into the dough. Evenly-distributed saltiness throughout prevents those moments of discomfort/temporary dehydration of toomuchsaltonthispartofmypretzel,EEK. It had the kind of freshness that is impossible to find in a bag of Snyder’s where a hundred or more pretzels are all fighting for the same air; this allowed for the pretzel to maintain its ideal, dry crunch. I usually love to eat hard pretzels with dark chocolate, but this pretzel-sesh had a different fate.

I forewent the chocolate this time around because I had a Virgil’s Microbrewed Root Beer that needed drinking.  This beverage,  purchased at Galco’s Soda Pop Stop in Los Angeles (dentist’s nightmare/my dream-come-true), was the perfect accompaniment to the pretzel. The brew contains all natural ingredients and flavorings: anise, licorice, vanilla, cinnamon,  clove, wintergreen, sweet birch, molasses, nutmeg, pimento berry oil, balsam oil and cassia oil. Virgil’s collects ingredients from around the world (Spain, France, Madagascar, Ceylon, Indonesia, China, Jamaica, Peru, and the US), all of which mingle delicately together in the smooth and creamy final product. Globalization!