Blog of an aspiring foodie

Archive for March, 2006

A B word kind of night

Posted by beer_chris on 30-March-2006

I think the 'B' in Baytown stands for 'Blame'. Or maybe that's the 'B' in BTEC. Who knows.

All I do know is that my former customers are trying to blame me for the failure of their tool. They couldn't define a spec – they couldn't even test it, or put it front of the users for feedback. Yet, 1 year later, the fact that those same customers won't accept it is somehow my fault.

And I'm expected to calmly offer my 'perspective' on this problem.

And I'm asked at 5:50 PM on a Thursday.

Totally, totally classic. Maybe the 'B' stands for Bonehead.

In any event, it was not my objective to be totally off topic with this post. No, my intention is to document my approach to food in this situation. I was, needless to say, a bit Bothered today when I left work (heh, another B-word). I went to watch Jaime play v-Ball at the Y, and when we left about 8:30, I started to feel a bit hungry.

I don't know if it was the way my stomach had turned upside down when I got my lovely late evening Baytown Surprise, or if it was my simple meal this afternoon of sardines and coffee, but I was ready for some spicy wings.

So Jaime and I hit BW3. I still call it that. Although not in this blog, many times I've expressed my disdain at the 'new' B-dubs. I hate that they dropped the 'Weck' from the name, basically eliminating the '3' in BW3, and I hate that they seem to have focused too much on standardizing their beer offerings. As soon as we sat down, I ordered a Saint Arnold – making sure to pronounce it carefully since I've had a lot of trouble in the past with waitresses nodding at my order of a Saint Arnold, only to come back looking very embarrassed, no beer in hand, asking me to repeat my order. The poor thing never really understood me to begin with, but was too ashamed to ask me to repeat myself. Apparently it's better to *pretend* that you understand what your customer orders, make him wait for 5 minutes, only to come back and have to start over again.

Maybe I'm the only person who tips lower in this situation. Maybe there are lots of really shallow, easily pleased men out there who appreciate having to order a beer twice and only drink it once – just for the distinct pleasure of having a waitress admit she didn't understand what you said.

Maybe…I'm just strange – errr – a Bastard.

In this case, my waitress understood me – but she still came back empty handed, and with the disturbing message that there is no Saint Arnold – and by the way she's never heard of such a beer (with the distinct implication in her tone that it might not exist). Well, I decided to press my case. After all, I'd had a bit of a rough evening already, and ther being the little fact that – this being Thursday and all – I ordered Saint Arnold only 4 days before – Sunday. I was pretty darn sure it was there and she just didn't know what she was asking for (i.e. the whole didn't understand me to begin with thing again).

And gosh darn it, I needed one!

She double checked, and told me the bartender said that it had never been on tap.

Huh? I decided I was a lost cause, and just ordered a Bud Select. When I got done, I moseyed on up to the bar to see for myself. No Saint Arnold tap.

What the fuck had I been drinking on Sunday then? Fat Tire? Sierra Nevada?

I'm really bothered by this. I explained to the waitress that if I were to ask her, say, the difference between Wild and the new Mango Habanero sauce flavors, if she couldn't tell me that would probably be considered a big deal. Or, if I ordered Sweet BBQ and she didn't really understand me and thought I said Hot BBQ (but didn't double check), how terrible would that be to get one of the hotter sauces on my wings instead of one of the mild ones?

Those, I reasoned, would be pretty serious offenses for a waitress in a BW3 restaurant (or even a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant), but apparently it is simply A-OK to have absolutely no clue what beer was available and what it tasted like.

Or in my case, at least on Sunday, to serve me a beer I didn't order and hope I didn't notice.

Would it be OK to stare me in the face and tell me 'I don't know' what sauces are available, or what the wing special is on a given day? Of course not. But somehow it's entirely acceptable to give me the 'not my problem' stare when I ask for a list of the beers on tap that aren't in the menu, or to outright lie (and know it) and tell me there aren't any ('Sorry sir, we just have Miller Light, Budweiser and Bud Light')

I AM SICK OF IT ! ! ! ! ! !

I'm not sure what pisses me off more – the fact that this confusion happens constantly in the 'new' BW3 restaurants, or if I really and truly was unable to tell the difference between Saint Arnold Amber and whatever it was that I actually was served on Sunday night.

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Final thoughts on Scotland and n=4

Posted by beer_chris on 29-March-2006

Just a few final thoughts on Scotland, now 1 week since I've been back:

  • Food there was much better then I expected. Traditional thinking says that Scotland, England and the UK in general is all bland foods soaked in butter and cream (potatoes, wierd stuff like haggis, etc), but aside from not enough 'chilli' flavor for my taste everything was actually quite tasty.
  • Even the coffee was good – which surprised me a bit.
  • I had no idea how strong CAMRA is in Scotland, and I never expected for this trip to be so much about beer for me – but when the opportunity is there and your host is a Real Ale aficionado, you roll with the punches (so-to-say 😉
  • Beef is a big deal, and has just recently made a comeback in the area from the mad cow scare of a few years ago. Angus beef tastes very much like the beef we eat here in Texas, probably since most of the beef cattle in the US are an Angus crossbreed.

Made n=4 of Ytee's Mighty Marinara on Sunday for pizza with the parents. Since the only real problem was too much oil last time, I simply omitted the sun dried tomatoes. I think it still tasted as rich and full. Additionally, I left out a step last time which I have done since n=2. I have been trimming the stem end of the canned tomatoes – I found those do not dissolve away quite like the seeds do in the sauce, and so removing them makes for a smoother consistency. Recipe follows (changes in strikethrough or bold:

Ytee's Mighty Marinara (n=3)
———————-

2 1 tbsp oil (I used the drippings from the italian sausage I browned for the pasta)
1 tbsp fennel seed, ground
3 cloves garlic, pressed
2 3 anchovy fillets
1 28 oz can whole tomatoes and juice
1-2 tbsp tomato paste
1/4 c sun dried tomatoes + oil
1/8 cup fresh oregano (torn)
1/8 cup fresh basil (torn)
1 bay leaf

Drain the tomatoes, reserving the juice. Trim all tomato 'stems' off of the canned tomatoes and add trimmed fruits to the juice.

Heat the oil, garlic & anchovy until the garlic becomes aromatic. Add all other ingredients and simmer until thickened. The whole tomatoes will break up, but be sure to leave some chunks.

Reduce until thick and bubbly

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A little bit 'o chicken

Posted by beer_chris on 27-March-2006

Planned on eating leftover pizza tonight (had parents over last night and made pizza again), but it happened to be gone – Jaime ate it for lunch. This left me with a single thawed chicken breast in the fridge and a couple pounds of frozen solid hamburger meat.

Not a whole lot of options – but I had been thinking about a pair of personal chicken pot pies on my way home. Jaime had some leftover puff pastry from her party (from an attempt at brie en croute) and so I thought that might work. Got home about 7 PM, and saw that the puff pastry took at least 40 minutes to thaw. So much for that, but I decided to go ahead and make some fresh pie dough and just use that.

Whipped that up and put it in the freezer to set up.

Got the filling going – recipe out of my ATK book called for 3 lbs of chicken, but with only 12 oz (1 breast), I went ahead with the same proportions of liquid (figured I could just use what I needed).

Cooked it up – even used some of the Grappa that Keith brought me from Italy – but realized I had no chicken stock. I used water instead, and created a truly insipid tasting cream sauce. It tasted something like Grappa mixed with warm milk and garlic. Ugh. I added some salt and pepper, and it just made for a salty insipid cream sauce with a little heat. I started to get a bit concerned, and then remembered I kept bouillon cubes around for just such an eventuality – one of these little magical treasures turned the sauce around – if not a bit salty.

All in all, these pot pies (without the veggies, of course, since i had none in the house and I had not stopped at the store) were pretty good. And I made the extra pie crust into cinnamon fingers.

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Updated the beer blog

Posted by beer_chris on 24-March-2006

Check it out . . .

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More from Scotland – dinner on Sunday

Posted by beer_chris on 20-March-2006

What an interesting day and evening. Spent the day touring various castles and ruins of castles in various points of Aberdeenshire (northeast Scotland). Had lunch at TGI Fridays (my gracious US expat host that drove me around all day had a hankering for some Jack Daniels menu items). Went to a great ‘Real Ale’ pub called the Blackfriars – right on Union street across from the center of Aberdeen – where I had a few pints of real ale off of a cask (and what great training the pub servers receive – twice now I’ve had a barkeep take my pint back to top it off because he had not filled it to the Imperial line)., eavesdropped on a conversation about the Commonwealth Games (currently on in Melbourne, and involving all of the countries still part of the British Commonwealth – actually pretty much the entire English speaking world save for the USA), and discussed the finer points of the Chevy Corvette and Ford Focus with a fellow sitting next to me.

I had a traditional late dinner, around 9 PM, and am just sitting down in the lobby of my hotel enjoying a dram of an Orkney 12 year single malt.

It has truly been a day and night in Scotland.

Dinner was at a newer restaurant (my hosts had not heard of it) around the corner from my hotel called ‘Cinnamon’. Apparently the place has another location somewhere in the UK (there were two phone numbers on the complimentary chocolates I was given after dinner). I’m guessing the other locale is in London proper, as my waiter had a strong Cockney accent, and the others were clearly English (you quickly learn the distinction in Scotland, where the Englishmen stand out about as well as I do as soon as we open our mouths to speak).

Dinner was really good. I became interested in this place because every night when I walked past to head to the pub, a gentlemen in (what I would consider to be) classic Indian garb handed me a take away menu. The dishes sounded grand, primarily southern Indian cuisine (influenced to be sure by the locally fresh ingredients, mainly seafood), so I dropped in this evening.

Well, the menu is deep – at least 5 pages packed with items, and I ended up with a Scottish-farmed salmon masala with a side of tamarind/chili (or, as they spell it here, chilli) rice and a lentil and okra side dish. The rice turned out not to be especially spicy or sweet (the Chinese peppers were completely seeded), but the salmon was fantastic in a great, obviously homemade curry/masala. The sauce was clearly made fresh, as I could clearly taste all of the components – cardamom, cumin, cinnamon. The peppering of coriander leaves on top really made the flavors meld together well.

Before the meal, I was served a crisp flatbread cracker with a selection of sauces in small bowls. One was a really great cucumber and mint sauce, thickened with what I would guess is yogurt. Additionally, a sweet and tangy red onion chutney was provided along with a mango sauce that tasted like honey, and best of all was what was called ‘mixed pickle’, basically three types of pickled items – jalapeno, what I think was fennel root and some salted lentils.

Bottom line,a really great meal. However, my waiter was especially talkative, and of course what would come up but George Bush. It is amazing to me how often individuals will want to talk George Bush as soon as they find out you are American. Honestly, I’ve not had it happen as much in Scotland as when we were traveling in continental Europe a few summers ago, but I think it is crazy. If I were to walk up to some normal Scottish fellow in a pub and ask him his feelings on his local MSP (Member of Scottish Parliament) or Tony Blair, he would probably give me the ‘crazy American’ look and walk away.

Stunning. But I’ll probably go back to Cinnamon, political talk aside.

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Scotland beer blog

Posted by beer_chris on 20-March-2006

Tuesday, 14/03
Caledonian 80/- at the Soul bar – across Union Street (the main drag in Aberdeen City Centre) from the office in a converted church. Totally a classic Scottish ale. Although I had it in other pubs served on cask (traditional 'real ale' style), it was good here as well – and not just because it was my first pint in Scotland. Deep copper colored, almost red, with a low head and low carbonation – like a good British ale should be. Malty, but not too sweet, and strong without being too dry, like a good 80 shilling ale should be. An all-around fantastic brew – like a good beer should be. My first beer since I was last in London where I could truly taste freshness. The flavor is nearly impossible for me to describe, but is the essence of British-style ales and thus is impossible to get here in the states (shipping ruins this flavor, with very few exceptions)

Wednesday, 15/03
Old Speckled Hen (at Prince of Wales before dinner). What a great pub, and a great beer that I've had many times in the states and never really liked. Like other English beers, the bottle version of these 'real ales' available in the US just can't match what you can get on cask in the UK. OSH here is a too-sweet, too-strong stale tasting problem beer. On cask in Aberdeen, it was heaven – with hop aroma paramount on top of the strong malty palate and finish. Yum yum!
Prince of Wales Ale (after dinner – at, of course, the Prince of Wales)
Wow. Brewed especially for the Prince of Wales pub, this beer was strong (at around 4.5% ABV), hoppy and full of flavor. Tasted like a a slightly less edgy version of the Saint Arnold Elissa IPA – flavors were rounded together better. Dangerously drinkable.

Thursday, 16/03
At the Prince of Wales (again):
Prince of Wales Ale
A splash of Dark Island
Real ale which I orginally mistook for a stout, but the website describes it as a traditional Scottish Ale, which explains why there was so little roasted malt bitterness and thickness like I would have expected from something this dark (generally black patent or chocolate malt is used in large amounts in stouts, which creates the coffee flavors). This beer tasted a lot more like the Schwarzbier JD and I brewed a few months ago – dark, rich, but without any roasted malt bitterness at all. Lindsey really liked this one. And, to make it even cooler, the brewery is in Orkney (islands north of Aberdeenshire)
Timothy Taylor Landlord
What I would call a traditional English bitter – golden straw colored, with a malty profile and strong hop balance. Good beer, but not all that memorable. A good session beer, and probably fantastic with some pub grub.
A splash of a real ale Pilsner (I do not remember the brewery or name) – not bad, tasted like Saint Arnold Summer Pils
We switched pubs at this point, but I do not remember the name of the place we went next. I do, with one exception, remember the beers I drank 😉
Caledonian Euchars IPA
Not what I would consider an IPA, but then again, I'm American. Our IPAs are much bigger then a traditional IPA, and this lines up well in the historical style – more of a session beer. However, I have a hard time distinguishing this from a standard English bitter, other then the malt flavors are slightly less distinct and hop flavors, although not strong by any means are stronger then the malt profile.
Had another Caledonian 80/- (YUM!!)
Had a third I can't quite remember – it started with a 'B'.
Had a dram of 10 yr (sherry) single malt (Macallan). Maybe it was the beer, but this rather pedestrian whisky was among the most memorable I've ever tasted. Dry and smooth, like a good highland should be, but with all kinds of berry flavors underneath.

Friday, 17/03 (St. Patrick's Day)
Yikes. Many many many pints. At least 6 Guinness and a host of others. Tennents, MGD, Corona, one pint of real ale. Some thoughts follow:

  • Guinness goes down E-A-S-Y. It's not as memorably good as I remember it from London. but after drinking all that heavily flavored 5%+ real ale all week, the familiar (and lower ABV) Guinness just dropped down like Bud Light.
  • One of the big things over there is the 'Extra Cold' taps. Guinness is served this way, along with Carlsberg (a Euro light lager) and others. I never had any, but in most bars you had to order your Guinness 'regular' or 'extra cold'. Definitely a little strange.
  • MGD is really popular (and pretty expensive), and it tasted way better then it does here.
  • Had a Euchars IPA in this really cool pub called 'Under the Hammer' that was really really hot inside. It was downstairs from street level in the basement of a building, and couldn't have been much larger inside then my office (the bar was probably the size of my desk, literally) – and it had, probably, 50 people inside. We stood the whole time and when we left I was dripping with sweat.

Saturday, 18/03
At the Prince of Wales after dinner, had Old Engine Oil
Holy Schneikes what a thick beer. This was like a winter warmer mixed with some type of tar. The only thing that approaches it in terms of flavor is an Imperial Stout. It was good, don't get me wrong, but it was thick, almost syrupy, with strong hop aromas in the head and little residual hop bitterness in the actual flavor profile. Totally dominated by burnt malt flavors – underlying hints of burnt coffee flavors, in fact – that sweet bitterness of burning beans you can smell coming off of the Kraft coffee plant downtown.

Sunday, 19/03
At the back bar in the Old Blackfriars pub in central Aberdeen
Something like Aldumarl, but clearly I am spelling it wrong because I can't find anything about it online
Belhaven Best
This was not real ale. It sure was good though, nice in between English Bitter/Scotch ale. Better then the Belhaven we get in the States.
Pint of a third real ale I didn’t see (waitstaff was Russian or something, I just pointed and couldn’t understand what she said back to me)
Good. A lot like Landlord but stronger. The name started with a 'B' or something, and I had more of it later in the week at Ma Camerons.
Back at the hotel had a dram of Highland Park 12 yr old single malt after dinner (while typing the original of this posting – and I in error identified this as Glenhaven at the time)

Monday, 20/03
Out with Bruce at the back bar at Ma Cameron's (most true pubs have a back bar – really and truly), had a number of different beers, including more Caledonian 80/-, something that started with a 'B' (again), and a few of a third a can't remember.

Tuesday, 21/03
Shockingly, didn't drink on Tuesday. Had to pack.

Wednesday, 22/03
Had a Caledonian 80/- at the airport in Aberdeen before I left. It was real ale. Fitting – my first and last beer in Scotland. Although my objective was to get into London that evening and have a Fullers London Pride off the cask, we simply couldn't swing it. I sat at the hotel bar and drank Boddingtons with a scowl on my face that deepened with every sip. Boddingtons here and there is no different – same old light boring beer. Had a dram of 16 yr old Lagavulin – WHEW – just as earthy as I remember it. After dinner had a nightcap whisky I can't remember now.

Thursday, 23/03
Well, hit the plane at 10:00 so not a lot of drinking ahead of that. However, I did have a few London Prides (out of a can, of course) on the flight, so I was able to cap my trip with the beer I wanted – just not quite in the situation I would have liked to drink it. The BA flight crew seemed quite pleased an American was asking for London Pride.

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n=3

Posted by beer_chris on 6-March-2006

OK, I've tried Ytee's Mighty Marinara a couple of other times, and I'm now convinced. It's the anchovies that make the dang thing. I tried it without the little salty fishies and with an extra bay leaf, and had nothing but a metallic tasting mess. This time round I added three fillets, and the sauce had a fuller, rounder body then ever before. I think the addition of more then a tbsp total of oil adds a bit too much greasiness, but the end result is still fantastic.

Additionally, in n=2 I used dried oregano, which is just plain soapy tasting. Fresh is SOOO much better (and I happen to have some growing in my backyard).

All in all, take n=1, add an additional fillet, and cut the oil down to 1 tbsp total (including what comes in from the sun dried tomatoes) and you have n=3.

Here's the adjusted recipe (previous values in strikethrough, new values in bold text):

Ytee's Mighty Marinara (n=3)
———————-

2 1 tbsp oil (I used the drippings from the italian sausage I browned for the pasta)
1 tbsp fennel seed, ground
3 cloves garlic, pressed
2 3 anchovy fillets
1 28 oz can whole tomatoes and juice
1-2 tbsp tomato paste
1/4 c sun dried tomatoes + oil
1/8 cup fresh oregano (torn)
1/8 cup fresh basil (torn)
1 bay leaf

Heat the oil, garlic & anchovy until the garlic becomes aromatic. Add all other ingredients and simmer until thickened. The whole tomatoes will break up, but be sure to leave some chunks.

Reduce until thick and bubbly

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I'm not making this up – the survey said it

Posted by beer_chris on 5-March-2006

I'm not sure whether to be happy or embarrassed. The person I got this from was rated to be 'An Expendable character (redshirt), so it's not a setup (I think)

Your results:
You are James T. Kirk (Captain)

James T. Kirk (Captain)
65%
Geordi LaForge
60%
Beverly Crusher
55%
Spock
49%
Worf
45%
Will Riker
45%
Jean-Luc Picard
45%
Uhura
45%
Data
41%
Mr. Scott
40%
An Expendable Character (Redshirt)
40%
Deanna Troi
35%
Chekov
35%
Mr. Sulu
35%
Leonard McCoy (Bones)
30%
You are often exaggerated and over-the-top
in your speech and expressions.
You are a romantic at heart and a natural leader.


Click here to take the Star Trek Personality Quiz

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Italian sub time

Posted by beer_chris on 5-March-2006

JD and I brewed today – a Munich-style Helles to be lagered for the next few months and hauled to the Lippke family reunion in early June.

Generally on brew days we eat lunch together, and today JD requested that I bring the fixins for Italian subs. I had a wild hair for italian-style subs in late 2004, and made them quite frequently. Today's incarnation was pretty good, and in prepping the ingredient list I realized I'd never posted anything about them here.

The worst part is that that deli bill can run up to about $30 or $40 if you're not careful (or if you're hungry when you go to the store). I've never bought anything but Boars Head for these, probably because I am am partial to the brand from my time behind the deli counter at Randalls, but probably also because some of these meats I just don't see anywhere else – Boars Head typically is more expensive and provides for a larger selection.

For most of these meats I don't have a clue how they are made or even, maybe, what animal they come from. For grins I'll post my impression of the meat and then the definition from my Food Lover's Companion ASIDE: Well, the Food Lover's Companion doesn't have a good index to italian meats. I had to revert to various Internet links as noted)

Sopressata – Some type of salted cured ham, kind of like prosciutto, but not nearly as salty or as cured. A little tough. I'm guessing this is made from pork leg, like ham is.
Bottom line (multiple sources). Looks like it is some type of salami, so not actually a ham. But it is cured with peppercorns and aged like 6 weeks – not as long as prosciutto, but still long enough to get kind of tough.

Cappcollo – Like Sopressata, but sweeter. Seems to come from the belly, like bacon, because it is fattier then sopressata and melts away as you eat it. Yum.
Bottom line (www.italianmade.com). Looks like I'm pretty much right about this one, although the origin of the meat seems not to matter all that much.

Mortadella w/Pistachios: Some type of fatty bologna. Tastes very mellow, lots of little fatty chunks like head cheese.
Bottom line (www.italianmade.com). Heh, right again! The original bologna!

Genoa Salami: Soft salami (as opposed to hard salami). Better then the Oscar Meyer kind with peppercorns in it that you have to peel the edge off of.
Bottom line (From Food Lover's Companion). Genoa salami is made with pork and veal. That it is not hard is strictly to do with the aging process it undergoes.

Also had some black forest ham, but that was really for my lunches this week, and topped it with sharp provolone and a fresh garlic, basalmic vinegar and olive oil dressing. Used Sara Lee hoagie rolls (these are truly the best – better then Peppridge Farm because they stay together even with lots of meat inside) and a little bit of shredded lettuce and finely sliced onions.

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