Over at the DG, I write about a new kind of beer I'd never heard of before - so-called gypsy-brewed beer.
Click here to learn more.
Over at the DG, I write about my hatred of onions.
Here's an excerpt:
In general, I like a lot of different kinds of food. But there is one vegetable I can’t stand: The onion. Whenever I order a sandwich, or a pizza, or an omelet, or any meal where the cook might try to sneak some onions into the mix, I make it clear that I don’t want onions anywhere me. My parents always thought I would grow out of my onion hatred, and for a long time persisted in ordering pizzas topped with onions, forcing me to surgically extract the offending vegetable with a fork and knife. In more recent times, I’ve managed to develop a liking for carmelized onions, because they’re a little bit like candy, but my general approach to onions remains avoidance and, if necessary, removal.
Because I hate onions, I assume that other people hate them, too. But some people assume the opposite. They assume that everybody loves onions, and wants to eat them. So consider this blog a public service campaign called “Not Everybody Likes Onions.” I decided this campaign was necessary on my vacation, when the only lunch option happened to be an onion sandwich. This is not something I want to eat.
Click here to read more.
Over at the DG, I write about some of the great food I ate on my vacation.
Here's an excerpt:
"I recently returned from vacation, which entailed driving south, with stops in Leesburg, Va., Durham, N.C., and Birmingham, Ala., where I spent the bulk of my trip.
I used to live in Birmingham, and shortly before the trip I began making a mental list of restaurants and bars I wanted to visit. The list wasn’t actually all that long: I ate at a lot of good restaurants when I lived in Birmingham, but many of them served the sort of quality ethnic food I can get up here without too much trouble: Indian, Mediterranean, Mexican. The shortness of my list, however, didn’t diminish my eagerness to eat at the few restaurants on it. In fact, as I approached the city, I could feel my appetite growing stronger and stronger, which might have had less to do with desire than with the fact that I subsisted on peanuts, french fries, coffee, ginger ale and water on the nine-hour drive from Durham to Birmingham. Although the ginger ale was pretty fantastic — a hot and spicy Atlanta-based brand called Red Rock Golden Ginger Ale. I regret not buying a case of it, because it’s not available up here.
Anyway, I arrived at my friend Leigh Anne’s house in Birmingham around 6 p.m. feeling somewhat malnourished, and demanded to eat at The Fish Market in downtown Birmingham. The Fish Market was one of my first discoveries when I moved to Birmingham, and I could not believe my luck: Here was a reasonably priced, high quality restaurant featuring a mix of seafood and Greek food. And it wasn’t a fancy restaurant. You ordered at a window, took a number and retrieved your food when your number was called. Service was quick, and I often took my dinner breaks there while working the night shift. Anyway, I ordered the barbecue shrimp and grits, and six oysters on the half shell, which I devoured. The Fish Market’s menu has actually expanded since the late 1990s, and has gotten a little fancier, but the basic set-up remains the same, and meals typically still come with hushpuppies — deep fried balls of cornmeal batter.
The Fish Market was so good I was tempted to make a second visit. However, there simply wasn’t time, as I spent the rest of the trip eating barbecue. The Capital Region has a very good barbecue place — Dinosaur Barbecue, in Troy — so it’s not like I’ve been deprived of good barbecue. But it was still fun to take advantage of some of the best barbecue restaurants Birmingham has to offer."
Click here to read the whole thing.
Over at the DG, I write about my new habit - drinking coffee.
Here's an excerpt:
"I’ve been drinking coffee lately.
This wouldn’t be a major announcement for most adults, but for years and years and years I didn’t drink coffee at all.
Two of my closest friends in college, Melissa and Ed, drank a lot of coffee. Yet despite spending many, many hours in their company, I never picked up the habit. Which is a bit odd, as I am a social drinker by nature and didn’t have any qualms about drinking lots of beer in their company.
But for some reason, I feared coffee. I feared I would become addicted to it, and require a cup or two every morning just to make it through the day.
Some people don’t drink coffee because they don’t like it.
But I’m not one of those people.
I like coffee just fine.
I can drink it black, and I can also drink it with cream and sugar. I like coffee shops, and coffee-flavored things like ice cream. So why I felt the need to resist giving in to the temptation of drinking coffee, I don’t fully understand.
Now, it is true that I’ve never been a big drinker of warm beverages, so perhaps the temptation just wasn’t that great.
I seldom drink hot chocolate or tea, with the exception of the three years I lived in Birmingham, Ala., when I drank tea all the time, mainly because my good friend Adam drank tea all the time. Adam is something of a connoisseur of fine teas, and he brews a variety of high-quality, loose leaf teas. We often spent our evenings hanging out in his living room, having long talks over hot cups of tea.
After Adam moved away, I tried to maintain this habit of drinking loose leaf tea. I purchased a special teapot, and ordered loose leaf tea from Upton Tea Imports, a specialty tea company based in Massachusetts. But I quickly found that I drank very little tea without Adam around, despite my fancy new equipment and carefully selected flavors of tea, and concluded that hot beverages were just not my thing.
But perhaps I was wrong, because I’ve had no trouble developing a coffee-drinking habit."
Click here to read the whole thing.
So I read with interest the recent piece on The Awl by Trevor Butterworth about the debate over whether passing new laws and taxes aimed at reducing soda consumption actually makes any sense.
I've gone back and forth on New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's measure to bar really large sodas from being sold in certain establishments - at times I think it might be a good idea, at times I think it unnecessarily restricts people's right to eat and drink whatever they please. In any case, Butterworth's piece made me feel a little less guilty about my misgivings, and more willing to question the science.
Over at the Boston Globe, Gary Dzen writes about following the president's beer recipe, and brewing a honey ale. (The recipes were released after curious home-brewers filed a petition to make them public.)
Dzen describes the project this way:
"Anyone with the proper equipment to brew can make the beer, to more or less the same specifications as the White House. The way to assess the beer’s quality, then, is to make it.That’s where my friend Javier Torre and I come in. He is a home brewer and I’ve helped him with several batches. We are hobbyists. The American Homebrewers Association estimates that there are about 1 million people like us in the United States. A starter brewing kit can cost as little as $80, and the ingredients to brew a 5-gallon batch of beer should cost less than that. It’s an approachable hobby, which likely factored into the president’s deciding to brew (a White House spokesman emphasized that the Obamas bought the equipment themselves).
In a video on the White House blog, assistant chef Sam Kass walks viewers through the process. The Obamas don’t brew the beer themselves, he explains, though the honey used in the ale comes from Michelle Obama’s bees on the South Lawn.
From start to finish, we brewed the beer in slightly more than three hours. It sat in a large glass vessel for two weeks in my kitchen before I transferred it to bottles, where it sat some more. It’s not a hobby that offers instant gratification."
The whole piece is pretty interesting. Click here to read it.
Over at the DG, occasional Rule of Thumb contributor Brian McElhiney offers some tips on cooking for one.
Here's an excerpt:
"I love food. And I mean all food — from succulent, perfectly seared prime rib, to fresh broccoli, to greasy fast food cheeseburgers, to those compartmentalized meals they serve on airplanes.
But for most of my life I’ve hated cooking. I think it’s because I’m lazy. It also doesn’t help that, like most of my family, I’m a fast eater and a meal that takes half an hour to prepare ends up being inhaled in about five minutes or less. (My mom is the champion of speed-eating — she used to yell at my sister and me if we didn’t finish our dinner in 10 minutes.)
Cooking becomes even more of a chore when you’re single. Let’s face it — most recipes are written with large volumes in mind, and it’s more economical to buy the ridiculously sized family packs at the grocery store."
Click here to read the whole thing.
Over at Slate, Tracie McMillan suggests that foodies should be honest about a basic fact: Cooking isn't fun. She thinks that if more people would admit this, perhaps then we could have a real discussion about how cooking is a time-consuming chore, but a good thing to do regardless. She writes:
"When the stories we tell about cooking say that it is only ever fun and rewarding—instead of copping to the fact that it can also be annoying, time consuming, and risky—we alienate the people who don’t have the luxury of choice, and we unwittingly reinforce the impression that cooking is a specialty hobby instead of a basic life skill.
So here’s my proposition for foodies and everyone else: Continue to champion the cause of cooking, but admit that cooking every day can be a drag. Just because it’s a drag doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it—we do things every day that are a drag. We take out the trash, we make our beds, we run the vacuum, we pay the bills. These are not lofty cultural explorations, but they are necessary, and so we do them anyway."
I agree with McMillan, to an extent. For me, cooking is a chore - usually I would rather do something else. however, I find that if I force myself to cook, I do enjoy it. The process absorbs me, and I find the end result, if successful, very satisfying. But I'd be a much happier cook if I was independently wealthy and didn't have to get up and go off to a job for eight hours a day. When I get home from work, one of the last things I feel like doing is cooking.
Grilled or crispy? Ordinarily a question concerning a chicken sandwich would not strike fear into my heart. But a couple nights ago as I sat at the Wendy’s drive-through lane, I was faced with a circumstance I had not prepared for, had not rehearsed, that gave me no time to make a call to my wife (for whom the late night sandwich was destined). The Wendy’s guy’s voice squawking out of the scratchy speaker sounded as if he was in a hurry, though there was no one behind me. And I felt the familiar moment of panic set in as I ordered “grilled,” and hoped this would be the right choice.
The whole experience took less than five minutes, but it reminded me just how much I dislike drive-throughs in almost every form. The one exception is the station at the bank where I can send deposits whooshing up pneumatic tubes, an experience at the same time so ultramodern and completely outdated it somehow doesn’t bother me. But for a long time fast food drive-through lines bothered me to the point that I would just go inside and watch as bags of food shuttled out the drive-through window while I stood waiting for my order, the lone indoor customer.
I still develop an almost nauseous tightness in my chest when I turn into the lane, pull up to the incomprehensible menu, talk into a faceless brown or yellow pole, and hope my order will be transmitted correctly. The feeling is only heightened when, inevitably, a car pulls behind me with a driver who I imagine has no trouble with drive-throughs. He probably gets his coffee from the Duncan Donuts drive-through every morning, I think to myself, and the tapping of his fingers on the wheel must mean he is growing more and more impatient with me as I try to find exactly where on the menu are printed the sides and kids meals.
Over at the DG, I write about some cool bars I've visited recently. The common thread: They all promote and specialize in good beer, from both American craft breweries and well-regarded overseas breweries.
Click here to learn ore.
Courtesy of The Awl, a recipe for beer ice cream, which certainly sounds like a summer treat.
"That's what I need," Matthew said wistfully between bites of chicken salad. "A traveling steak salesman."
It sounded like a daydream for an idle Saturday evening, and I laughed as the pickup truck that inspired my boyfriend's reverie drove slowly down the street, its custom paint job advertising meat.
Certainly this slow-moving truck was traveling the dead-end street for someone else, I thought, as we ate dinner on Matthew's front porch. The truck passed his house and then did a careful U-turn. It was headed back our way.
Must be lost, I figured.
The driver eased into Matthew's driveway and got out.
"He probably wants directions," I said.
The driver, a man in his late 50s or early 60s, mounted the porch steps and then backed away when he noticed we were eating, but Matthew put him at ease with an eager, "Are you selling steak?"
I've always enjoyed lying to kids, and when I worked at camp, I lied to kids often. One of my favorite lies involved dinner - whenever the kids asked me what we were having, I always said, "Gruel."
Anyway, The Awl has a nice little story about how historians and scientists are able to reconstruct millennium-old recipes, and how they were able to recreate the recipe for Bogman's Weedseed Gruel, which sounds like an even better answer to the "What are we having for dinner?" question than plain old gruel. Much to my delight, this recipe calls for water infused with sphagnum moss, which makes me think of the eighth grade, when I ran for class president on the slogan "Vote For Sara Foss or She'll Turn You Into Sphagnum Moss." Ah, nostalgia.
Click here to visit the piece in The Awl.
The other night I went out to Mahar's, a bar in Albany with an eclectic beer menu, and encountered a kind of beer I'd never had before: banana bread beer.
Sounds weird, right?
Anyway, I decided I had to buy it.
My thinking: How could I resist something as strange as banana bread beer?
I had high hopes.
I generally assume that if a reputable establishment is selling a particular food or drink, it's going to be good - otherwise they wouldn't sell it. This logic is sound, but it has led me astray: For instance, I once bought peanut butter and jelly French toast, and discovered that it was as awful as it sounded - two foods that were never meant to go together. (The restaurant was probably cleaning out its pantry, and decided to trick diners like me into eating something gross.)
Much to my delight, the banana bread beer was good - an interesting and delightful mix of banana bread and beer, as its name implies. You could definitely taste the banana bread flavor, but it wasn't too strong or overwhelming. Made by Wells & Young's Brewery in the United Kingdom town of Bedford, the beer received mixed reviews over on BeerAdvocate.com, but I really enjoyed it. It's a nice, amber beer - not too heavy, and not super-light. I'm not sure I would want to drink it all the time - it was too much like dessert, and probably best in moderation as a result - but I'd certainly drink it again ... especially if I had a hankering for beer and banana bread.