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December 10th,
2013
written by Arthur

This morning, in an unusual pre-dawn move, I flicked on the television. I found myself watching the ceremonies and speeches commemorating Nelson Mandela. The memorial reminded me of an unusual connection I have to the great revolutionary and political leader.

In the summer of 2001, I found myself outside of Washington, DC working in concession stands of Wolf Trap National Park. The park boasts a large open air stage and hosts regular nightly concerts. I severed-up snacks, beer, and wine to the fine concert goers. In my first week, I struggled to open a bottle of red wine–only the fourth or fifth bottle I had ever tried to open–and succeed in breaking the cork and polluting the wine. I didn’t know what I was doing. The patron was patient. He told me not to worry. That he’d buy the bottle I’d corked and to bring two more bottles. As he used one of the bottles to show me how to open wine, he told me how he learned to open bottle of wine. My customer had just started working in room service in a fine hotel in South Africa and was called up to a room to deliver and open a $600 bottle of wine. Entering the hotel room he finds Nelson Mandela on the day of his release from prison. In front of Mandela and his guests my instructor breaks the cork of the bottle as he attempted to open it. Mandela calmly told the man not worry, that he’d buy the corked bottle, to bring two more bottles, and proceed to show the server how to open a bottle of wine. After showing me how to open a bottle of wine, my customer talked me through opening the second bottle.

If the story was a lie it was a well told and oddly placed one. I believe it was true. I believe in the image of the great man who changed the course of nations moving through the world with a individual grace and kindness that boarders mythological. I remember that Nelson Mandela embodies both fiery revolutionary and wise statesman.

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December 9th,
2013
written by Arthur

I’ve spent the last few days wandering, eating, and drinking my way around the New York City with my mother. Knowing her love of all things Italian, I ended our first full day in the city with a stop at Eataly. Rather than battle the masses in Eataly for an adult beverage, we opted for comfortable seats at its rooftop restaurant/brewery Bierreria. Our thoughts started with wine, but quickly progressed to beer as we perused the menu. The fine selection of Dogfish Head brews jumped out at me. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: those guys are are insanely committed to beer.

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Red and White

Dogfish Head Red & White

This guy is a Belgian-style witbier fermented with pinot noir juice. So what is a witbier? Here in the good ol’ US of A it is often called white beer. Common white beers are Blue Moon, Hooegaaden, Shock Top, and Allagash White.  My usual thought is ick or meh.  But I trust Dogfish Head to at least give me something interesting if not loved. And they went nuts and threw in that pinot noir juice and we already had wine on the brain.

Appearance: Not nearly as red as expected. A dirty golden amber.

Smell: Light and bright. Citrus and yeast.

Taste: Yeast, orange zest, and tart citrus. Some spices hiding in the mix.

Mouth: Medium and smooth.

Overall: Delicious. I would love to try this on a summer day rather than a cool December one.

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Birra Etrusca Bronze

Birra Etrusca Bronze - Dogfish HeadAgain, the mad geniuses at Dogfish Head have recreated an ancient brew. In the words of the Dogfish Head website:

To develop the recipe for Birra Etrusca Bronze, Dogfish Head’s Sam Calagione traveled to Rome with molecular archaeologist Dr. Pat McGovern. With the help of Birreria Brother Brewers Leo DeVencenzo of Birra del Borgo and Teo Musso of Baladin, they analyzed drinking vessels found in 2,800-year-old Etruscan tombs…The backbone of Birra Etrusca comes from two-row malted barley and an heirloom Italian wheat. Specialty ingredients include hazelnut flour, pomegranates, Italian chestnut honey, Delaware wildflower honey and clover honey. A handful of whole-flower hops are added, but the bulk of the bitterness comes from gentian root and the sarsaparilla-like Ethiopian myrrh resin. 

In addition to Dogfish themselves, Birra del Borgo and Baladin also brewed a version of Birra Etrusca.  Dogfish will used bronze, Baladin will wood, and Birra del Borgo used terra cotta. So much thought and love.

Appearance: Copper/amber.

Smell:  What? What?! So not clear what’s going on here. You smell some of the honey and pomegranate through layers of herb, wood, earth, and resin.

Taste: Wow. Every sip is different. Sometimes the honey is the star, sometimes it’s an earth feeling, sometimes it tastes like Christmas, sometimes it tastes like a cathedral at high mass, sometimes it’s raisins, very often the hazelnut boldly jumps in.

Mouth: Mouthy with some syrup.

Overall: Like some other Dogfish Head ancient brews, this is an adventure not an every day drink. Every sip and smell is surprise. Bravo Dogfish–keep these things coming. Even if you don’t love it, you gotta try it.

 

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November 28th,
2013
written by Arthur

T-Day 2013

November 15th,
2013
written by Arthur

City SubsDespite having relearned the lesson over and over again through out my life, I sometimes forget that the simplest things can make me profoundly happy. This last Saturday, I was reminded of the simple joy of a well executed sub sandwich. I was relaxing on the couch with Carly and taking in some early afternoon college football when the topic of subs some how came-up. In particular, the topic of City Sub: they are awesome (so I was told) and I had never had one. After this news, I spent the better part of the second quarter of the game ruminating on sandwiches. A half-time walk in the fall air brought me to the doors of the lauded establishment.

The line from the counter to the door was the first sign that I had not been led astray. Patrons waited patiently for their chance to order as a team of two efficiently sliced meats and cheese, toasted buns, assembled sandwiches, and took new orders. The wait allowed me to contemplate my tempting options–the list of pre-set subs are posted on the walls and spiral into low thirties. And there are the choices of tomato, paper thing onions, pickles, olives, sweet or hot peppers, spreads and oils to add. So many delicious options.

City Sub

And it was good. Making a choice was not easy, but in the end I selected ham and salami with provolone (untoasted) while Carly chose smoked turkey and smoked ham with smoked gouda. Back in front of the game, the bread played a rock star role in every bite of our mammoth subs.  Not just a vessel for holding meats and veggies City Sub’s bread adds texture and a bit of flavor as a good sub bread should. I preferred my untoasted bread, but could see the appeal in a melted sandwich. The veggies are sliced thin to maximize surface area and flavor.

In a city packed full of sandwiches shops, City Subs operates in the upper echelon. I can’t wait for a return trip to this fine Brooklyn staple.

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October 25th,
2013
written by Arthur

I’ve been thinking and talking a lot about French fries.  I’m a strong believe that fries are one of the most underrated foods out there.  Yes, you can get them almost everywhere and yes people across America eat them by the bushel full.  But still, they get no respect. A crisp outside with a soft interior… it’s culinary magic. Thrillist, recognizing the magic of the fry, recently did a French fry power ranking.  The following are my mad ramblings on the subject (re-organized from an email exchange with Carly on the subject).

Steak fries are amazing. In part because they are great for scooping sauce (ketchup and/or mayo please!). On the other hand, regular old fries have a little bit of a better crisp though.  On the regular fries, a mixture of ketuchup and mustard is nirvana. If forced to choose between the two, I’ll take the platonic steak fry over an ideal regular fry. But, at the end of the day, steak fries seem more likely to be or get soggy.  The struggles of the idyllic versus the real world.

Waffle fries are best for toppings (chili, cheese, etc.) because they are basically a built in scoop.

Tatter tots are fantastic—though need to be considered separately from fries. And on the subject of excluding items from the list, kick the home fries too… good, but not true fries.  If we let in tots and home fries where are the hash browns I love for breakfast? Shame on you Thirlist!  Shame.

I constantly forget curly fries exist.  They are a great novelty, but almost always seem to disappoint.

Shoe strings:  Good.  But all crisp.  I like the soft middle of the other fry varieties.  The sauce is even more critical with these guys than usual.  Though with risk comes reward; these can provide a perfect canvas for interesting aiolis.

Crinkle cut fries are designed to be eaten with dogs or burgers fresh off the grill and preferably eaten outside at a red and white plaid plastic table cloth.  For BBQ time, these guys might be the winner.

Almost every fry is great. It’s hard to find a fry I hate. Under cooked, oily, crisp free fries do it, but these are so rare (and horrific) that any conversation of them can be cut-off here. *Shudder*

Think about your next French fry. Their ubiquitous nature only makes them all the more the culinary wonder.

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September 5th,
2013
written by Arthur

Imperial-Pumpkin-ModalMost pumpkin beers remind me of pumpkin pie in a glass: nutmeg, pumpkin, cinnamon, sweet, etc. The Harpoon Imperial Pumpkin is not most pumpkin beers. This guy is a solid imperial stout with some pumpkin flavor.

The Details

ABV: 10.5 %

Appearance:  Brown to the point of blackness.  Solid head.

Smell:  Roastiness, molasses, unsweetened chocolate, and pumpkin.  Very very light nutmeg.

Taste: Roasiness and unsweetened chocolate dominate. Not sweet. The pumpkin flavor comes in a distant second and not as pumpkin pie. Rather, the pumpkin flavor makes me think the actual squash roasted and pureed with a faint dusting of nutmeg and cinnamon.

Mouth: Medium body.

Overall:  If you’re an imperial stout fan, you’ll like this beer.   If you’re a casual pumpkin beer drinker, steer clear!

I’m personally not the biggest imperial fan, but could see enjoying this on a cool night near the bonfire.

 

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August 28th,
2013
written by Arthur

This is my shameless attempt to get in a post for the first time in a few weeks. Hilarious. Must Watch.

August 26th,
2013
written by Loren

During my recent weight loss efforts, I’ve found that, for me, it is much easier to make small changes which compound over many days rather than big changes which I won’t be able to stick with. A great example of that is switching to taco salads instead of tacos or burritos. I find that tortillas are one of those foods for which I don’t intuitively account for the calories they contain. It doesn’t seem like food, it seems like what goes around food, but at around 150 calories for a medium tortilla, they can start to add up if you eat more than one taco/burrito per meal. Moreover, they don’t seem to add all that much to the meal in terms of flavor or even texture. Unless, of course, you know a little old Hispanic lady who makes homemade tortillas from scratch. If that’s the case, damn the calories, you can find somewhere else to cut them out.

Since I don’t have that homemade tortilla hookup, I made this delicious chicken taco salad the other day, and it came out great. The main flavors here are the chipotle marinated chicken thighs and the really fresh black bean/corn salsa.

To make the marinade: mince 2 canned chipotle peppers and add to a bowl with 2 tablespoons of the adobo paste from the can, 2 tablespoons of oil (olive, peanut, or vegetable), 2 teaspoons of garlic paste, a few dashes of worcestershire sauce, the juice of one lime, and salt and pepper. Mix this up and pour over four boneless, skinless chicken thighs. If I can make a recommendation: buy whole chicken thighs and bone them yourself. You’ll pay about half as much per pound, and you can keep a collection of thigh bones in your freezer until you have enough to make chicken stock (foreshadowing some  soon to come posts? perhaps…). Back to the recipe. Let the chicken marinate for a few hours, then throw it on the grill.

To make the corn & black bean salsa, add the following to a mixing bowl: 1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed; 1.5 cups sweet corn (roasted is better if you can find it or want to make it); 5 green onions, sliced, 1 red bell pepper,  finely chopped; 1 handful of cilantro, chopped; 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced; 1 cup of cherry tomatoes, quartered; the juice of one lime; 1/2 teaspoon of cumin; and 2 tablespoons of olive oil, plus salt and pepper to taste.

This salsa is spicy, smoky, sour, crunchy and so fresh. For salad greens, I went with swiss chard. For one, I bought some at the farmers market with no real plan for how to use it, so this was a pleasant surprise. Two, I think the assertive flavor and texture of chard, as compared to something like lettuce or spinach, better stands up to a meal with aggressive flavors like chipotle grilled chicken and lots of salsa. So rinse and cut your chard (removing most of the stem), add a nice heap of salsa, top with sliced chicken and half of a sliced avocado, and sprinkle with crumbled queso fresco.

 

MexiSalad1

August 8th,
2013
written by Loren

meat porn

One of the undeniable joys of summer is steaks on the grill. And if you have a grill readily available, like I did last summer (sigh…) you start searching for some different flavors to add after your 10th or 11th grilling session. In terms of simplicity, this marinade is the absolute ideal. Just equal parts whiskey and balsamic vinegar, how great is that? Well, plus a little salt, pepper and olive oil, but that’s kind of a given in any marinade. For a one person steak, you could do maybe 2-3 tablespoons of whiskey and vinegar, 1 teaspoon of olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add the liquid to a large freezer bag with the meat, and marinate for 30-90 minutes. Don’t leave this to sit overnight or anything, because the whiskey and vinegar are quite potent flavors and will really overpower the meat, especially if your steak is thin. If you like you can also try a few variations on this basic theme; I’ve added a few crushed garlic cloves and a sprig of rosemary in the past, and that was a good addition. I think I’m also going to try adding cayenne pepper and maybe a small amount of brown sugar.

August 1st,
2013
written by Arthur

Summer is a time for pesto.  Cheap fresh basil abounds.  But if you’ve made the stuff before, you know that pesto has an unfortunate habit of turning a slightly unpleasant dark color as it sits.   To brighten things up, add a tablespoon of fresh parsley for every cup of packed basil.  The flavor is largely unaffected and the aesthetic bump is well worth the 99 cents to pick-up a bundle of parsley.

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