Saturday, February 25, 2012

Fritalian Chicken

 If you know anything about my gustatory habits, you probably know that, while I tend to stick to what I know when ordering food at a restaurant (and have been, on occasion, called "picky"), when I actually make a meal... I like to experiment. When I'm eating, a ham sandwich is great; when I'm cooking, a ham sandwich is boring. When, eventually, I end up running my Viking pub, I don't want to just make traditional Scandinavian food, or traditional pub food. I want to make food with Viking spirit. Inventive, powerful, daring food; inspired, not only by my heritage, but by combinations of styles from everywhere the Norse people went (which is a far greater variety of locales than you probably realize). And it was, in this spirit, that I decided that I would attempt to combine food from two very different places, and do something I had never attempted in any way.

I'd never breaded anything, nor had I ever fried chicken. Breading should be easy: roll something wet in bread crumbs, and the bread crumbs will stick, right? My only lesson in frying chicken was from Minnie Jackson in The Help... Minnie don't burn chicken. In my experience jumping all the way into uncertain waters, it either goes exceptionally well, or exceptionally poorly, and rarely falls on any sort of middle ground... I expected this would be no different, and my girlfriend and her family were very nice to allow me to use them as my guinea pigs.

What I did:
To start, I bought a whole chicken to butcher. Another thing I'd never tried.
He has no idea what he's in for.
Next, I took fresh rosemary, sage, and oregano leaves (16 oz. each), half a bulb of fresh garlic, and two jars of Best Foods (because, as far as I'm concerned, there aren't any other companies making mayonnaise) Olive Oil mayonnaise, and mixed them in a bowl.

and added a whole bulb of garlic which I'd been roasting in olive oil
in case you didn't know what roasting garlic looked like.

because just one kind of garlic is not enough. Just one bulb of garlic is not enough. (side note... the mayonnaise spread that came out of this experiment is delicious, but I will not be putting it on a sandwich to eat before going to a job interview)
With all the garlic added to the mix, it was time for my girlfriend's adorable immersion blender to join the party.

Seriously, am I not just super cute right now?
With the marinade blended, and the whole house smelling like Little Italy (minus the sweat), I put most of it back into the mayonnaise jars (seriously, if you're in the area and want to come over for one of the most delicious sandwiches ever, feel free), and the rest went into a large ziplock bag with the massacred chicken carcass (turns out I'm not a great butcher yet) to sit in the fridge over night.

The next day, my girlfriend (who is the one I go to with questions like, "We should probably put some vegetables on the plate right?" and, "What kind of food, that never moved of it's own volition, do people eat?") and I went to the store to figure out our side dish. What we settled on was red potatoes, broccoli, zucchini, yellow squash, and asparagus spears. This mixture (cut into slices or chunks) was cooked in a pan with crushed tomatoes and their juices, as well as various seasonings, I think (can you tell I paid slightly less attention to the vegetables than to the meat?).
The chicken was wiped nearly clean of the mayonnaise/spread/marinade, and breaded in Panko Parmesan breadcrumbs, mixed with shredded parmesan cheese because, seriously, there can never be enough parmesan. The wings, drumettes, drumsticks, and thighs were placed in a pan of hot vegetable oil, and fried on medium high heat for ten minutes skin-side down, then flipped and fried for twenty more minutes over medium low heat, while the breasts were baked in a pan at 450ish degrees for 30 minutes, skin-side down, then flipped and baked for another 25 minutes at 500 degrees (meanwhile, the fried pieces were being kept at about 110 degrees in the toaster oven because I hadn't quite thought through the timing). Finally, with everyone on the brink of starvation (partially because it was about 8pm, and partially because the house just smelled so damn good), the food was all ready, and was served with a creamy alfredo/four-cheese alfredo mixture, to which I had added melted goat cheese, more parmesan, and a couple spoonfulls of the Italian seasoning mayonnaise from the fridge. The end result was this beautiful disaster:
Served with some $11 red wine, because we classy.
In the end, the taste was great. The chicken was well cooked, and ridiculously soft and (there needs to be a better word to use here than) moist on the inside, while crispy on the outside. The vegetables were slightly soft, but still had some crunch, and very good flavor. Yes, I actually ate the vegetables... mostly. And the wine was as good as ever (Apothic Red: probably my favorite relatively cheap wine).

What I will do differently next time:
To save myself a fair amount of time and energy, at the expense of a dollar or so, I will buy a pre-butchered chicken. Then I will double the amount of rosemary, sage, and oregano in the marinade, as well as adding half a bulb of fresh garlic... then I will let it marinate for at least two days... perhaps up to five. I will forgo the bread crumbs on the fried chicken, in favor of a flour, buttermilk, parmesan, and Italian seasoning mixture, in hopes of avoiding the problem I had this time with all the breading falling off when I took it out of the pan. Also, instead of vegetable oil, I will use rosemary infused grapeseed oil. Oh, and I'll start baking the breasts half an hour before the rest of the chicken starts frying... and I won't put the frying pan over a high-output burner (or, if I do, I will turn the temperature down slightly) in order to avoid the breading getting burned before the meat has finished cooking.

In the end:
Some (more perfected) version of this recipe will be on my menu... so if you're drooling all over the place, and would get up right now and make it for yourself if not for fear of slipping in the puddle, you are welcome to come in and try it some day.

Monday, September 12, 2011


From what I've heard, Texas is all about two things. 1)Barbecue, 2)Not being messed with. So, being uncertain about my ability to do the second one of those things, I came to Texas with two goals in mind. One, as usual, was to find and sample local beer. The other, which has taken precedence, to eat authentic Texas Barbecue. So imagine my pleasure, upon arriving at the hotel, to see this right next to where we'll be staying.
Two neon pigs playing guitars? How can it NOT be good?!
Here, I thought, surely here I will find real Texas Barbecue (yes, in Texas, the B is always capitalized in Barbecue. It's the law.). I will find someone from Texas who can explain to me, with the passion I've been lead to believe all Texans have for the subject, why Texas Barbecue is the best in the world... what special trick or treat they have that makes their smoked and fire cooked meat better than any other. I will be able to know, first-hand, the alleged wonder of the Lone Star State's official form of cooking. And, who knows? I might even find some delicious local beer in the process.

This did not seem like an insurmountable task, and indeed still doesn't, considering that my coworker was actually born in Houston, where his father still lives.

We went to Red Hot & Blue and sat at the bar. I immediately noticed a lack of Armadillo's in cowboy hats, Cactus' wearing sun-glasses, and cow skulls on the wall, and thought there was something not quite right. The jazz posters and brass instruments adorning the place made it feel more like Tennessee or Louisiana. The waiter pointed out the specials. Ribs, pulled pork, cornbread, pulled chicken... Memphis style. This is not Texas Barbecue. It's Memphis barbecue, in Texas. I wish I had taken a picture of the disappointment on my face so you could all share in it. However, being too lazy to find somewhere else to eat, we stayed. The waiter suggested a beer called "Zinger Bock", which he said was made by the same people as Shiner Bock, from Shiner Texas. I thought, if I can't get real Texas Barbecue, I should at least get real Texas beer.

I also ordered some Bacon Cheese Fries.
I even intentionally ate one or two of those chives.

The beer was a basic brown ale. Nothing particularly notable about it, other than it's blandness... which would have been a big problem if not for the fact that my meal was kind of bland too. Also, a search of the Spoetzl website has not yielded anything called Zinger Bock... so I'm not sure what I was drinking exactly.

Chopped beef brisket with mojo mild sauce, Grandma's potato salad, and cole slaw.
I find that there is an idea, among unskilled meat-smiths, that barbecue is all about the sauce. The theory behind it being that low quality meat can be compensated for by a generous helping of sauce. I, on the other hand, believe that meat is not a vessel by which the sauce is carried, but that well barbecued meat is flavorful enough that any use of sauce is purely optional. Maybe my taste-buds were over-loaded by the bacon cheddar french fries with ranch, or maybe this was purely mediocre barbecue... but if I can't tell whether I'm eating beef, pork, or chicken, there is a problem somewhere in the line. I was tempted to add some of their "Sufferin' Sweet" sauce, but was determined to actually taste the meat somewhere in my sandwich. Despite my determination, I was unsuccessful. However, since I still have Dallas, Killeen, Austin, and perhaps Houston to visit, there is still hope that I will taste the glory of Texas at some point during my time here. I pray to John Deere that I do.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Continuing Saga of a Wandering Beer Hound: Flights

The last time I was in the Denver airport, I noticed a certain restaurant I would have liked to try… however, I also noticed that I was about 100 miles away from my gate, and only had about Forty-five minutes before the plane left. Today, however, was a slightly different story. Because I was a little bit late to the airport in the morning, I was unable to check in for my scheduled flight. Forty-four minutes, apparently, is not enough time to get from the ticket counter, through a very short line at security, and onto the plane. So, instead, I had to be put on a flight that took off for Denver at just about the same time my co-workers would be landing in Arizona… which is to say, with no transportation at my disposal, and no way to check in for a mid-day flight so early in the morning, I got to find a secluded area of the baggage claim, and lay down with my head on my duffle-bag to catch up on sleep I had lost having to wake up so early. Or at least I would have, if not for the “BING! Security is everyone’s responsibility. Please make sure that all luggage and personal items are kept in view at all times, or they will be confiscated by TSA.” alert going off every five minutes. So, I got to lay there wishing I was asleep for the next three hours until I could check in… then I got to sit around for another two hours before my first flight showed up.

Due to the fact that Page Arizona is not exactly an international city, I’ll be taking one of the two little “bring your own ear plugs” style flights from here… and have to wait four hours between landing and taking off from Denver. This, as you might have guessed, allowed me more than ample time to go to Denver Chophouse Brewery.

It was a really nice place, for being in an airport food court. It was small, but had the feel of an upscale steak house, only with reasonable prices (I’m still angry at you, Ruth’s Chris). The selection of beers was not substantial… but what do you really expect from a brewery inside of an airport? The four beers they offered (aside from mass produced swill) were as follows:

From left to right, Dortmunder Lager, Red Ale, Pale Ale, and Dark Munich Lager

Dortmunder Lager 
this is a blonde lager made in the style from Dortmund Germany. Dortmund is German for Dirt Mound [citation needed]. Featuring German Pilsen, Light Munich, and Cara Helles malts, it smells like Miller High Life mixed with honey apple cider, and has sort of a breakfast cereal taste. However, the Nugget and Mt. Hood hops add a mild bitterness that evens out the over-all flavor. It was very good, as Lagers go, and would perhaps be of good use in converting a Budweiser fan to a craft beer fan.

At this point, I noticed a couple of young women a few tables away watching as I took pictures and notes and I said hi with a dry hopped bitterness and mild hint of roasted malts. The responded with two thumbs up, and I considered going over and giving them my blog address and telling them to read all about it… but then I remembered that there was untasted beer in front of me, and I had more important things to attend to.

Red Ale 
This Irish style ale, while not fantastic or complex, was smooth and had a subtle toffee sweetness. While it may not have been the best of the lot, nor the best red ale I’ve had, it was actually more enjoyable than certain Scottish and Irish red ales I tasted at the San Diego International Beer Festival.

 Pale Ale
This had a very hoppy nose, but was not so strong as to smell bitter. The Simcoe and Amarillo hops were the main elements of the flavor, but were kept well in check by the caramel malt accent. This is not a novice beer drinker’s ale, but should be enjoyable for those with more experience.

Dark Munich Lager 

Though, in the picture, it looks to be the color of the table, that’s really just because of the low lighting. Really, it was more along the lines of a medium strength Jack & Coke. It had virtually no scent, as far as I could detect, and was somewhat creamy on the tongue and to the taste, with a predominantly toasted malt flavor, and not much hops. Made in the modern Munich Dunkel style, they used European Munich, Crystal, and Chocolate malts, and a small amount of hops for flavor.

To wash it all down, I had a bison burger on a toasted brioche bun, with hickory smoked bacon and cheddar cheese. It was soft, tender, and smoky. In fact, it tasted more like beef than beef does, and is better for you. It was excellent with all four beers, but the Pale Ale most of all.

Next time I have four hours to waste in the Denver airport, I am definitely stopping by Denver Chophouse Brewery again. I think it was a much better choice than the McDonald’s and Panda Express that are across the way.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Continuing Saga of a Wandering Beer Hound: The Mountain Goat Weed.

It’s very strange, being away from home, and away from San Diego, but still being so close. With all the out of state travel lately, I’ve started to think of being Californian as a novelty. When asking locals what there is to do, or where I might find good local beer, they ask where I’m from. Lately, the response has been “Oh, I’m from California.”… but this week finds me in Mount Shasta, California, and my response now has to be more specific. It’s strange to feel like a foreigner in your home state. I’m not quite accustomed to moving around so much, but it has presented me with an enjoyable opportunity. I don’t care to find the local night-life, or find and talk to the natives… but I do like tasting local beer and barbecue. Which is why I was excited when one of my co-workers (whom I had not worked with before) said he liked, “I don’t know… all kinds of beer. Blue Moon, Fat Tire, Stella, I like dark beers, strong beers, light beers… just not Budweiser, Miller, Coors, or any of that kind of crap”.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Our first day in Mount Shasta was long and tiring, as most of them tend to be, so we asked the employees of the store that we were working on, “Is there anywhere around here where we can get really good local beer?” “Well… there aren’t really any bars around here… It’s a pretty small town.” I told them I had heard there was a place called Mount Shasta Brewing Company, and asked if they knew anything about it. “Oh, Yeah… well that’s not right here in town. If you go about fifteen minutes North you’ll get to Mount Shasta Brewing, if you go about fifteen minutes South you’ll get to Dunsmuir Brewery Works. They’re both really good. But if you’re talking about stuff here in town, your best bet is The Billy Goat Tavern.”

The co-worker I just met (who is snoring in the next bed as I type this) had to leave early, to take care of some prescriptions or something, so Jared and I decided to go to the tavern without him. It was a nice little place, but I won’t waste too much time on it because the real beer adventure comes later. I started out with a glass of Boont Amber Ale, by Anderson Valley Brewing, in Mendocino county, and a carnitas style pulled pork sandwich with sweet spicy mustard and bacon on top.

The ale was decent, and had some sweetness from the malt and wheat, but the flavor and mouth feel were slightly watery to me. I moved on to Raging Rapids ale, by Feather River in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. It was a dark golden color, and clear. It tasted like sweet, delicate, flowers dipped in honey. The taste hung around in my mouth for a long time, and I was not at all upset about that. It made my sandwich taste better. The ceiling was covered with over 200 decorative taps, which are put there when they’re not in use.

The whole “vibe” (to steal a work from these mountain hippies) of the place was comfortable and relaxed… but it would not have suffered from the use of an Air Conditioner or a fan.

So, the next day, when our other co-worker rejoined us, it was settled. We would be going to Mount Shasta Brewing Company after work for a couple of drinks, and maybe some food if they had it.

Mount Shasta Brewing Company operates out of what had been the abandoned Medo-Bel Creamery, and doesn’t seem to have changed much about the building as far as appearance. The Brewery itself inhabits a large room adjacent to the bar, and can be seen through a set of large windows.

I would like to come back some time when they’re brewing to get the full experience, and maybe meet the brewers.

I was honestly a little surprised by the beer selection. Since it’s kind of a small operation, I expected they might have two or three varieties on tap, and then perhaps a sampling of other relatively local beers, since it’s not just a brewery, but an Alehouse and restaurant. However, when I looked at the eight taps behind the bar, I found that every one had a different Mount Shasta beer, and no other Brewery was represented. Faced with such a spectrum of potential delights, all made locally, I really only had one option: Try them all.
Challenge accepted
The Tour de Weed. Clockwise, from the front: We have their Seasonal “Stout of Jefferson”, “Skip and Go Naked” specialty lager, “Lemurian” golden lager, “ Weed” golden ale, “Shastafarian” porter, “Abner Weed” amber ale,  “Mountain High” IPA, and Jalapeno ale. I’m sure you can guess which one I was least excited about trying.

Oh, and I also got a ham and swiss panini with sliced black olives, and honey dijon mustard and tortilla chips. Though I didn’t think it warranted a picture, it still deserves mention because it was delicious. I had to work at not eating it all before I finished my beer, because I wanted to not only see how good their beer is, but how well it pairs with their food.

I decided on the order in which I would taste them, lightest to darkest, leaving the jalapeno ale for last for fear of it being so spicy that it would ruin the flavor of everything else. However, for the purposes of simplicity, I will tell you about them in the order they were listed above.

Stout of Jefferson: As you can see, and should assume, because it’s a stout, this was a thick dark colored beer. Since I decided not to look at their descriptions on the menu, so my impression wouldn’t be tainted, I expected this to be like Guinness, or Murphy’s, and feel like a dark beer… I expected it to have a sort of roasted coffee bean taste… so I was surprised when it tasted kind of like a cone of soft-serve ice cream where the vanilla and chocolate are swirled together. I was impressed with how it managed to be sweet and dark without being syrupy or cloying. I think it would go well with blueberry scones, or raspberry lemon tarts. It’s sweetness, apparently, comes from the use of local apples and pears.

Skip and Go Naked specialty lager: When the bar tender (who kind of looked like if Ed McMahon had a baby with the bar tender from Boondock Saints, complete with sporadic and random facial twitches) brought my tray over and told me which was which, he simply called this “Skip and Go Naked”. When I asked him what kind of beer it was he looked at me for a moment with a surprised expression… as if no one had ever asked him about beer styles before, and he’d never thought to wonder. Then he said, “Well, I think it’s a lager. I don’t know… I don’t really like that one.” If you ever go, and he’s there, you should ask for his opinion on what to order, and then get something other than what he tells you. This was, perhaps, the best lager I’ve ever tasted. It smelled like cinnamon and honey, and had a slightly spicy taste. While it was crisp, like you’d expect a lager to be, it was by no means weak or watery, but did not err in the other direction by being too flavorful. I would enjoy this with honey-baked ham, Christmas cookies, or a cold juicy apple while laying in a hammock under a shady tree on a warm day.

Lemurian golden lager: This was the first one I tasted, and it’s a good thing too, since it would have tasted weak after the Skip and Go Naked (I’m interested to see what Google AdSense does, with me saying “Naked” so many times in this entry). I’m not sure why, but this pilsner is named for Lemuria, a theoretical continent (which never actually existed) that people used to believe had sunk into either the Indian or Pacific ocean, depending on who you talk to. It had a very warm flavor from the yeast. I would drink it before getting to the main course at a barbecue… with sweet corn on the cob, potato salad, hawaiian rolls, fruit salad, or baked beans. More than that, however, I would like to drink this while eating a ham sandwich, sitting atop Mount Shasta in spring time, looking out over this whole beautiful landscape.

Weed golden ale: Named after Weed, California, which you probably remember best from the first chapter of John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men”, where it’s mentioned that George and Lenny had recently worked on a farm there, but had been chased off because Lenny was accused of rape. This ale was nothing like that, and really doesn’t have anything to do with that though… but it does bring to mind images of vast golden wheat fields surrounded by rolling hills which steadily grow greener as they climb up into the sky and become tree covered mountain spires and rocky snow covered peaks. It had a zesty scent, and a crisp, delicate flavor. Perhaps I should have started with this one. This would go well with a cold turkey club, or something of the like.

Shastafarian porter: Named after Ras Trent, this had a predictably coffee-like scent, and a subtle chocolate malt flavor. It would probably pair well with special brownies, Bob Marley, and/or The Dark Side of Oz.

Abner Weed amber ale: Contrary to popular opinion, the town of Weed is not named after weeds, or marijuana, or even Jeremiah Weed (the alcoholic beverages)… it is actually named after Abner Weed, once California Governor and founder of the town. This ale, which bears his name, honors him more than the actual town does, I believe. It had a sweet, hoppy scent, and a caramel flavor. It tasted a bit like an Irish red ale mixed with Newcastle brown ale. This is a good backbone drink for the brewery. It’s a good representation of its type, which they could produce in large quantities, to fund some of their more experimental beers. I would pair this with the panini I was eating, or maybe some baked beans, or a beef burrito.

Mountain High IPA: So named because the town is surrounded by mountains… and since it is in Weed, they like making drug references. It was deceptively light tasting for being 7%abv. the hoppy flavor was somewhat muted at first, but had a pleasant tangy kick afterward, and the flavor stuck around for a while, which made my sandwich even more enjoyable. I would have this with pizza, or chicken wings, or garlic bread… or all three of those things.

And finally…..

Jalapeno ale: It smelled exactly like you’d expect it to… like tabasco sauce. Yet (and if you knew either of the guys I was there with, you could ask them), I actually did try it. At first, it tasted like tomato vines smell… but that quickly gave way to something more like flamin’ hot cheeto’s with a slight hint of beer flavor. It burned my throat a bit, but was not actually entirely intolerable. I think that anyone who likes spicy food and beer would actually really like this. This was the only one I didn’t finish. I would have this with milk.

I finished my sandwich, finally, and went back to the bar for a pint of Abner Weed, which I enjoyed while briefly talking to my girlfriend before my piece of crap phone died for the second time that day, then went out to the parking lot and talked to a guy from Michigan who had ridden his bike out to Oregon, and was on his way down California to ride back across the southern part of the country before heading back up to Michigan. I told him he needed to go see some giant sequoias while he’s out here, because there’s nothing else quite like them in the world. Sadly, he said, he didn’t have the time… Hopefully, he’ll see some on his way south. It would be a shame to make that kind of a treck and not see them.

I do hope to come back here some day, in the not too distant future, when I’m not working. A leisurely trip up though these mountains, without a schedule, would be damn near perfect.

Picture dump

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Tapped Out

I had the good fortune, this week, of being in town for a special event at Stone Brewery, which, given my recent work/travel schedule, was surprising. They were having something called a "Fresh Tap Night", which means they were pouring a variety of local beers (not just their own) which had been kegged that very day. In addition to this (and, perhaps, most importantly) they were offering the chance to drink a glass of their 15th Anniversary Imperial Black IPA.... which may be the longest name for a beer that I've yet encountered. The way it works is you buy a token at the bar, which you then redeem in the store before being led through the brewery to the IPA. We bought our tokens, I took the picture you see above, and we went to the store, and started the line for the first group of the night. I was in front, my beautiful girlfriend was behind me, and some woman who insisted on trying to make conversation with the backs of our heads was behind her, followed by two other men. We were led through the gleaming towering brewing equipment, and down an aisle that the tour we'd taken before had not brought us down, actually between all of the fermentors. When my liver dies and goes to Heaven, it will find itself somewhere like this. We were met by a man with a rack full of glasses who, when asked how long he'd been working there, said, "Oh, about five minutes.... oh, you mean years?".

I was the first person in line, in the first group of people to taste the first batch of this beer.... straight out of the fermentor.
Other than the people who actually made the beer, and probably tasted it to make sure it was suitable for sale, I was in line to be the first person to taste it. However, I am a gentleman, and let the two ladies behind me get their glasses filled first.

Despite being called a Black IPA, it was more of a dark chocolaty brown. In fact, the color and the feel of it (since it had not even been carbonated yet) reminded me of the river of chocolate in Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. I took a sniff, and then a sip, and imagined myself as Augustus Gloop, falling head first into the river... a fate I don't think I'd be bothered by. It was, almost needless to say, strong. It's Stone Brewery after all. It was intense, though not over-powering, hoppy and malty in turns.

We took our glasses out to the patio while another lucky group was led in. I wanted to savor my drink, so I sipped on it while we waited for a waiter to come around. Besides, I thought, this is much too heavy of a drink for someone to just guzzle down.

Or so I thought, Erika.
We ordered some tacos (I got barbecued duck) and chips, and spud buds. And Erika, not content with the strong beer she'd just chugged down, ordered two glasses of Cali Belgique (though she will tell you an entirely different version of the story which will include some nonsense about the waiter taking too long, and the bartender giving her an extra one or something)

The girl in the background is whispering to her friend about Erika being an alcoholic.
The Food and beer were all delicious, and you should all be very jealous. The thing about Stone is this. This is the thing: Their beer is very strong, and their food is very spicy. I've heard Stone accused, a number of times, of relying too heavily on hops for character, and I believe the same could be said of their use of spice in the food. It's almost as if they designed their food so you could still taste it over their taste-bud numbing beers... or they designed their beer so that it could over-power the intense burning sensation nearly every item on their menu causes.

Pictured: Just your ordinary, run-of-the-mill, fire chili death chips.
The moral of the story, though, is that no one should ever let Erika near their brewing equipment, because she will drink those tanks dry.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The truth revealed

Many people have probably wondered, at some point, why Kirsten Dunst is such a terrible actress. Admit it. You don't understand why anyone puts her in movies, do you? You may also have wondered why she has such a weird face and voice. If you haven't, you should have... because she's absolutely terrible. However, I have the answer to those questions, so you don't have to wonder any more. The reason that Kirsten Dunst looks and sounds so bad, and is so terrible at acting.... is......

Please, spread the word.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Colorado Springs Eternal

Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never Is, but always To be blest:
The soul, uneasy and confin'd from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come. - Alexander Pope
I am now in Colorado Springs, as you may have guessed by the title of this installment. While it has only been a few days, it does feel like it's been longer (though not actually eternal. That is exaggeration). I would like, very much, to be done here and get back to my girlfriend, and/or see my family, but I can't do either yet. There is still work to be done. However... instead of boring you with information about work (since I basically do the same thing every day... except that I got to do some painting today), I will devote this particular blog entry to my experience at the bar tonight.
Across the street from the hotel we are staying in here, is a grill and bar called Buffalo Wild Wings, which my roommate (we'll call him Jared, for legal reasons) said was "a pretty chill bar. They've got a decent beer selection, and basic bar food"... which is really all that I need. Raymondo decided to stay back at the hotel for the most part (he stopped by the bar for about 30 seconds, and miraculously vanished.), so it was me, Jared, and Rick (which, I imagine, is short for Ricardo) whose beer horizons I am intent on broadening. I was confident I could convert him from Bud Light and Corona until the other day when I ordered a Fat Tire with my lunch and he cringed. CRINGED! literally winced, and pulled back, as if the thought of Fat Tire was so repulsive that his body could not stand to be near the words. After that, my confidence in his likelihood to change has waned, and I am less determined, though I will still, whenever possible, show him how much I am enjoying my delicious beer for it's taste first, and it's inebriating properties second.
Today, after work, we stopped by Wal*Mart. I bought a six pack of Shock Top to bring back to the hotel. Perhaps my fan in Maryland will understand my aggravation here... and perhaps have even felt it to a stronger degree... though most others may not. I got back to the van and looked at the label, and found that this particular variety (though otherwise marked the same as any other) was only 3.2% abv. I was told at this point, since the rest of the crew has been here before, about a difference between Colorado and California. Whereas California Grocery Stores and Liquor Stores sell the same alcohol (though not always the same brands or varieties necessarily), Colorado Grocery Stores and Gas Stations cannot sell beer that is higher than around 3.5% abv. For those of you who don't know what that means, in California, an average beer will be around 5.5% abv (alcohol by volume), wine tends to hover around 14%, though both can often be found in higher percentages. This means that Colorado Grocery Store beer is less potent than cough syrup, which is often around 4-5%.
Knowing that we would be going out, I wasn't too upset about the beer. Besides, it would be a good experiment. Does changing the alcohol percentage in a beer effect the flavor of the beer in any noticeable way? They don't water it down (I'm guessing) to change the alcohol percent, so the recipe should be about the same... yet, and I can't exactly place what it was, the flavor was different. It was, somehow, less interesting, less flavorful. Fortunately, as I finished the bottle, I was on my way out.
The bar section of Buffalo Wild Wings wasn't exceptionally large (though it had an inordinate number of tv screens, all of which were showing sports of some kind), and didn't have an unusually vast beer selection, but it did have a surprising number of beers I had never heard of, let alone tasted. I ordered a plate of ribs and popcorn shrimp, and a 16 ounce glass of Agave Wheat beer. I chose 16 ounces instead of 20, because I wanted to make sure I had room for everything I wanted to try. Agave Wheat is made by Breckenridge Brewery, here in Colorado, and is an American Hefeweizen. It was cloudy all the way through, and about the color of good honey. Rick, who was drinking a bud light, said, "what is that?! Look, you can see through my beer all the way, but I can't even see through any of yours." That, Rick, is because your beer is crap, and mine is delicious.... though there's probably a more scientific reason for it. Honestly though, if I ever went to a bar that only had three beers to choose from, and those three were Widmer Hefeweizen, Franziskaner weisbier (the two great beers of which it most reminded me) and Agave Wheat... I would choose Agave Wheat all night. The only thing that kept me from revisiting it was the number of beers I'd never tried.
So, I reluctantly soldiered forth... and had an IPA from Compass. In my time as an amateur beer connoisseur (an expensive thing to be an amateur at, admittedly), I have tasted a fair number of great IPA's... but I may have found my favorite. Maybe it was the way it complimented the honey barbecue sauce on my ribs, or maybe it was the fact that it was powerful enough to distract from the burning sensation from the peppercorn and garlic on my popcorn shrimp... or maybe it was the fact that it could pair with the sweet tangy sauce, and be strong enough for the spicy shrimp... but this hoppy beer would prove a hard act to follow. It had a floral aroma, was roughly as intense as any California IPA I've had, and followed with a very distinct lemon and lime zest after-taste.
Moving down the line, and still snacking on french fries and popcorn shrimp (having sucked every bit of sauce and flesh off of the bones of the ribs), I ordered a Barrel 5 Pale Ale. Not as strong as an IPA (since IPA's originally had to be strong and bitter to last through the voyage from India to England), this was, certainly out of order. Had it gone between the hef and the IPA, I'm sure this would have been more than acceptable... but following the IPA left the flavor of the Pale Ale wanting desperately.
At Jared's suggestion, I tried the 1554 Black Ale from New Belgium, another Colorado company. This, at the risk of sounding like an alcoholic, is definitely a beer I would suggest you drink with breakfast. Or, breakfast-for-dinner. It was like Fat Tire, Guinness, and a little bit of coffee got mixed together. Very smooth, not thick or syrupy and it kept it's head.
Intrigued by the tap design (it had a picture of a dog on it), my next order was a glass of Laughing Lab. This Dark Scottish Ale is not only local in that it's brewed in Colorado, but it's local in that it's brewed by Bristol Brewing, here in Colorado Springs. It was not exceptional, but was an extremely fair representation of Scottish Ale. It is dark red in color, both bitter and sweet... but it lost it's head faster than any subject of the Queen of Hearts. At this point, I thought I'd order a glass of water, since I have work in the morning, and it is (apparently) a good idea to be hang-over free while doing construction.
At this point, a young black woman came in and sat up at the bar, and ordered take-out, and a Blue Moon. She and my co-workers made conversation which caused me to think about how little I envy single people. Granted, I'm not married, but I'm also not looking for love (or whatever people look for) in all the wrong places. She wanted to get home, because she had a bag of food, which her room-mate was waiting for her to bring back, but Rick said, "You don't have to rush home to bed.", "Well, my bed's pretty cold, so I'm not rushing." She said, looking at Jared. I can't even imagine how demoralizing, degrading, and depressing it must be to go out looking for a cheap hook-up, for someone to show you some kind of affection... and it makes me even more glad to have the meaningful, committed, and respectful love that I have with my girlfriend, even if I am far away from her.
Since I was still working on my water, and my Laughing Lab, but wanted to know more about the one remaining untested beer on tap, I asked the bartender, "What is that one with the Bison head?" Oh, that's Buffalo Sweat. "Which is?...." It''s made by Tall Grass Brewing Company, and is ridiculously dark. Like... if Guinness had a baby with Emperor Palpatine... and very smooth. Like a real ale. It had a very promising thick head, but that faded to a thin film within a minute. It reminded me of Mikkeler, and a Stone beer (the name of which I can't remember)... the one they serve with the ice cream on people's birthdays, only not as heavy and with a slight caramel flavor. It would make a fantastic beer float if you dropped some French Vanilla ice cream in it.
I've been reluctant to refer to myself as a "Craft Beer Enthusiast". Partly because I find the idea of enthusiasm somewhat laughable, and partly because it kind of sounds like a self aggrandizing way of saying I like to drink beer, and have instead just referred to myself as a beer drinker... But I have realized there is a difference. A craft beer enthusiast has a love and appreciation for the art, and science, and variety of beer. A beer drinker wants to get drunk, but doesn't like hard liquor. I spent a few hours drinking seven different beers, and never intended to get drunk. I didn't get drunk. By the time I paid my bill I wasn't even buzzed. I don't know whether to thank or curse my genetics and BMI. I am not a beer drinker. I.... am a craft beer enthusiast.