Blog of an aspiring foodie

Archive for February, 2006

Greatest Go Texan Day EVER!

Posted by beer_chris on 24-February-2006

The property management company provided free stuffed baked potatoes (they called it chopped beef, but it was more like Manwich) However, they also offered fresh popped kettle corn, cotton candy and live music.

It was easily the best Go Texan Day ever in my life, including school days, even when I was in TX History class and we got to watch a movie. I think the movie was 'The Diary of Anne Frank'. My Texas History teacher, Mr. Melore, had this thing about the Anne Frank story. I have no idea what this had to do with Texas History, but apparently something really important, because we spent tons of time on it. Anyway, I digress…

The best part was one of my employees from AZ asking 'what he should do' with his stuffed potato after he picked it up, and what the giant tubs of onions were for that people were digging into like crazy.

EAT IT, dummy!


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Posted by beer_chris on 23-February-2006


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Cheese list from Jaime's party

Posted by beer_chris on 23-February-2006

Cashel Irish Blue
From: Ireland
Milk: Cow
Ireland's Beechmount Farm makes this superb blue cheese. Louis and Jane Grubb own this farm in the rolling hills of Tipperary. This county is the heart of horse country and a center for outdoor activity, including pony rides, treks on horseback, fishing, riding, and bird watching. The folks in Tipperary enjoy the good things in life, including their cheese. Cashel Blue is a young, somewhat mild and extra creamy cheese that, unlike inferior blues, is not too salty. It is a fabulous alternative to Gorgonzola or Stilton.

From the iGourmet Encyclopedia of Cheese

Butlers Golden Speckle (Lancashire & Apricots)
From: England
Milk: Cow
Lancashire, where the Butlers dairy is situated, is in the North West region of England. The lush green pasturelands are still dotted with traditional stone built farms, a selection of which keep the Lancashire cheese making tradition alive today .The majority of the remaining farms produce the high quality Lancashire milk that is used in the cheeses production. Lancashire provides the unique variations in weather and the luscious green grasses that gives local cows the nutrients they need to produce such distinguishable milk. This milk has helped farmers make Lancashire cheese for centuries, being used in recipes passed down through generation after generation of skilled cheese makers who have upheld the long lasting traditions of its history to this day.
Lancashire cheeses differ greatly in character, ranging from quite firm in texture to very crumbly and from strong, sharp tastes to soft and creamy flavours. This wide spectrum of qualities makes Lancashire cheeses extremely versatile. It can be used in breakfasts, lunches and salads and for cooking as it melts and stays soft without turning rubbery. Tasty Lancashire is perfect with pasta dishes. Perfect partners for Lancashire cheeses are full-bodied Red Wines or a good bottle of Port.

Adapted from content found on the Butler's Dairy website

Ptit Basque
Origin: France
Milk: Sheep
This semi-soft sheeps milk cheese is handmade in the French Pyrenees. P'tit Basque, made from pure sheep's milk, has a rather dry texture and an earthy, nutty flavor.

From the iGourmet Encyclopedia of Cheese

Wallace and Gromits Wensleydale
Origin: England
Milk: Cow
Enjoy our cheeky friends' favourite nibble! Real Traditional Wensleydale from Hawes (for children great and small). Children have sensitive taste buds, and they will love this delicious cheese in preference to strong, acidic varieties. It is extremely nutritious, rich in vitamins, and suitable for snacks encouraging healthy teeth and bones

From the Wensleydale Creamery website

Tillamook Monterey Jack
Origin: USA (Oregon)
Milk: Cow
Monterey Jack cheese obtained its name from Monterey County, California, where it was first manufactured as a “farm cheese” by Spanish-speaking pioneers in the area. David Jacks, a businessman of that era, began marketing the cheese, where it became known as “Jack” cheese as well as “Monterey” cheese.
Tillamook Monterey Jack cheese is made with pasteurized milk and does not need to age to develop its mild, fresh flavor. Monterey Jack is sometimes referred to as a stirred curd or washed curd cheese. Unlike cheddar, the curd is rinsed with warm water and stirred before salting. Monterey Jack, traditionally a white cheese, has no color added

From the Tillamook cheese website

Tillamook Sharp Cheddar
Origin: USA (Oregon)
Milk: Cow
Tillamook Sharp Cheddar cheeses are made using a microbial/vegetable-based rennet (which has Kosher and Halal certification, and is approved for vegetarian products). Milk color tends to vary during the course of the year due to changes in the cow's diet. For decades, cheddar has been colored to maintain consistency in its appearance throughout the year. In order to create the traditional yellow typical of cheddar, we incorporate a natural vegetable coloring extracted from the annatto tree grown in the tropics.
Tillamook Sharp Cheddar is aged for over 9 months for a full-flavored sharp taste

From the Tillamook cheese website

Lone Star Chevre
Origin: USA (Texas)
Milk: Goat
Fresh Artisan Goat Cheese ” – Made with 100% fresh goat's milk. A true Texas Farmstead Goat Cheese made faithful to the traditional methods of the farmstead cheesemakers of old. HAND LADLED, small batches, made with no preservatives, stabilizers or artificial ingredients. This method results in a fresh, mild ,creamy Texas fresh cheese. Lone Star Chevre can be substituted for cream cheese and contains half the fat and calories of cream cheese. Use for your favorite dips, hors d'oeuvres, and sauces. Crumble on salads or serve alone with crackers. Spread the Lone Star chevre/pesto on a loaf of crusty bread and bake in the oven to release the olive oil in the pesto. A tasty treat to mix with pasta to create an authentic Italian style dish.

From the online store

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Don't 86 the duck!

Posted by beer_chris on 22-February-2006

Saw a show at the Mucky Duck last night. Actually, not just any show, a Trish show. Show started at 8, so I showed up at about 6:30 to have a pint or two and complete my PMP practice test (aside – really wishing I could have a pint or two when I take the real exam. The questions are insanely 'managerspeak'. I had to read each question and answer twice just to try and digest what they mean)

Interestingly, the co-owner was at the bar with her laptop, reading out loud an interesting discussion thread on the background of the of the term 'eighty sixed'. An Austrian chef had posted to some type of food/restranteur discussion board asking where this term came from – that he had just moved to a job in America and did not understand the meaning or origin of the phrase. The idiom in question is used often in restaurants to refer to items that should be removed for the menu (or are otherwise out of stock, as in 'eighty six the Caesar salad, the anchovies weren't in the delivery today'.

In any event. the reply posts posited a couple of theories, but one seemed about right, perhaps because it was backed up in two separate answers. The winning theory was that the term emerged at the legendary Delmonicos restaurant in New York, which never had a certain rib-eye steak dish. The item was number '86' on the menu, so whenever something was missing or had to be removed from a menu, it was referred to as being eighty sixed, or going the way of this AWOL steak entree.

Another theory held that graves used to be dug to a standard length of 8 feet and of course, 6 feet deep. Since that theory ignored the logical third number (width) of a grave, everyone seemed to agree with the Delmonicos theory.

Just checked the 'Food Lover's Companion', which has the term but no background. Interestingly, I did some searching now that this post is complete, and found what is probably the site in question (although the questioning chef is Russian, and may or may not be a chef – I'll leave my previous data above for interesting proof of the power of hearsay). Interesting ideas here – especially the one about telegraph/morse code signals.

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Alcohol + Rhohipnol = TABC training

Posted by beer_chris on 20-February-2006

Why is alcohol so taboo in our society? Texas has some backward laws when it comes to alcohol, even taking away the bizarre 'private club' service rules (aside – I wonder how long most people live in Texas before they become card carrying members of the statewide Unicard club? I'm a member since 2001: #50762563). I just completed the renewal of my TABC server-seller certification (ironically, taken at the Saint Arnold brewery), and the class focuses so much on how to protect oneself from liability it almost makes me forget that the TABC was the right hand of the temperance movement, and that's really what it's all about – that and collecting serious taxes for the state government.

That, and they did an entire 45 minutes (including a video culled from 20/20) about the evils of Rhohipnol. Ummmm, yeah. Rufies are bad. I get it. Bad people use it to rape women. Kind of odd, I thought. I guess the better they get the word out about the stuff, the less likely these sickos are going to be able to successfully squirt their 'Visine' into a woman's drink. It seemed a bit of an odd topic. What's next, an hour on watching out for pill pushers? Somehow I'm thinking I won't encounter a lot of this on the Saint Arnold brewery tour, but I guess Vigilance = Prevention in this case.

As I told Jaime, I'm more then happy to have these types of discussions about the social ills of all sorts of things, but this material is not on the test to become a server/seller. I was there to take the test, not have social debates and watch old episodes of broadcast news magazines. I gave up 4 hours of my life IN ORDER TO take the test (you have to complete 4 hours of training to qualify for the exam). If there isn't 4 hours of material related to what is on the test to review, then why do we have to make up corollary topics (relevant as they may be)? Why not simply shorten the class?

Sigh. Not much I can do I guess. I can't imagine rallying much support in Austin to remove date rape topics from TABC courses so guys like me can spend one less hour in the class. In any case I did find this frustrating.

Did learn something rather interesting. The manufacturers of Rhohipnol have modified the drug so that it colors clear liquids blue and precipitates in dark liquids, making them appear like hot chocolate. Certainly this is no guarantee, but I did learn something (there – now I feel better about it)

I kind of felt like maybe I was on Rhohipnol during the class. Hard to stay awake .

Listening to these instructors, you would think the TABC has an inspector in every bar – coming up with new a devious ways to trap, er, discover sellers that will provide alcohol to minors. Maybe they are the ones that can solve our border crisis or resolve the HPD manpower shortage. Or perhaps they can police the U.A.E. port security coming to a dock near you.

Who knows. All I do know is that if my friends want to take the Saint Arnold tour without coughing up 5 bucks, they're going to have to do something nice for me – volunteer servers can put names on the list to be let in free.

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How does my garden grow

Posted by beer_chris on 16-February-2006

Yikes I can't believe it's been nearly a month since the last update. Scary. The first quarter of the year always seems to fly – I look up and it's March. That really seems to be happening again this year. However, even with time flying by, I am actually adhering to plan on something I want to try to get right this year – a real vegetable garden that might actually yield some edible produce. I tried last year and (1) planted in a shady area, and (2) planted seedlings that were much too small. This made for some tiny tomato plants that never really grew any larger then the weeds around them, if they weren't chomped in two by the curious cat next door.

This year I followed Urban Harvest's guidelines, which they call the 'No Excuses Raised Bed Garden'. Mine is a bit larger then their suggested garden, at 8×8 feet, but fundamentally it follows the same design – 8x8x16 inch cinder blocks topped with wall capper solids (4x8x16). This is super cheap – I think I spent 30 bucks total on the cement blocks. The hardest part was transporting and moving all of those (altogether the weight was about 450 lbs, which I moved twice – once from cart to Toyota, once from Toyota to back yard. Back = sore)

In any event, weekend 1 of this project was spent digging out the sod and leveling the area I chose, which gets a goodly amount of afternoon sun, and then laying all of the blocks out to form the frame. I also sowed all of the seeds on weekend 1 (planning to get everything in the ground in about 3 weeks, when nighttime temperatures are averaging in the upper 50's). Between weekend 1 and weekend 2, I ordered 3 yards (~80 cubic feet) of garden mix from the local soil purveyor to be delivered the following Saturday morning. About 30% more then I would need (8x8x1 is 64 cubic feet), but I needed some room for settling over time.

Weekend 2 was primarily spent moving this dirt from front to back yard. Thank goodness for the invention of the wheelbarrow. Back = sore again. We also took the opportunity to put 3 yards of mulch into various beds around the house, as delivery of 6 yards of material avoided the $30 delivery fee. Dirt is expensive. The 6 yards was $200.

This turned out to be a consuming project, and one of the reasons I didn't even get anywhere near this blog last weekend even though Jaime and I had a stupendous early Valentine's at Pappas Bros Steakhouse – but I digress.

In any case, the garden is ready – and my tomato and okra seedlings are up and well on the way to their first transplant (from the seedling nursery to an actual peat pot – kept indoors and away from that darn cat until they are about the size of the transplants you can buy at the big box stores). I'm planning on 6-8 tomato plants, mostly heirloom beefsteaks, some arugula and lettuce, and a shallot and garlic patch. Those latter roots probably won't be ready for harvest until this winter, but I want to try and get a perpetual garlic and shallot patch going (i.e. plant new bulbs every few months) with a varieties that will tolerate our summer heat of course, so that I can harvest continuously.

The okra will be put in containers. I think I'll take one of the plants to work and see if I can grow it in my window.

So, there's a lot of work and planning into this garden already, and not a single plant is even in the ground. If I can't get some kind of natural bounty out of this thing, I'm not sure what I'm going to do next.

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