Blog Bankruptcy

10 03 2008

About three-and-a-half years ago, I followed Larry Lessig’s lead and declared email bankruptcy. I’d gotten so far behind on my email that I couldn’t see any way out. Unless I spent a two-week vacation getting caught up, those emails just weren’t going to get answered. What I needed was a fresh start. So I put up a little note on the, er, then-blog and announced—apologetically, of course—that if I hadn’t already responded to an email, I wasn’t going to. It was about self-preservation. It had to be done.

I’m going to try a variation of that now, and I hope you’ll let me get away with it. Obviously, I haven’t blogged here since November. There’s no particularly good reason for that. At first, I didn’t have much to say. Then I was busy. Then I took a vacation in Las Vegas (for the National Finals Rodeo). Then it was the holidays. And then and then and then.

At some point, I didn’t know how I was going to get the blog caught up. I had all these things to blog about—events I’d attended, people I’d met, exotic beer I’d drunk—but I didn’t know how I’d find the time to actually do the writing. I needed to just admit that I was in too deep and start over. It took me awhile to concede that, but I’m at peace with it now.

So, I’m hereby declaring blog bankruptcy. I haven’t written here since November, and now it’s March. There’s no good way to get you caught up, and I’m not really going to try. I need a fresh start.

The first thing I’m going to do is purge my desk of the dozens of pieces of paper I deposited in a pile—in a “to do” pile—as little reminders to blog. The November 20 ticket from the Youssou N’Dour concert at the Kimmel Center? I’m throwing it away right now. I had fun that night, but I just can’t tell you about it now. I saw a group called So Percussion at the Kimmel, too, but I won’t be blogging about that, either. The same goes for at least three Flyers games (November 15, November 23, and February 9). I’m throwing those tickets away at this very instant. The same goes for my ticket to the 2007 iteration of Terror Behind the Walls, the Halloween show put on at Philly’s Eastern State Penitentiary. And my receipt for a November 16 trip to World Cafe Live to see The Gourds? I won’t be saying more than that I had fun. My trip to New York last month to see the Kronos Quartet at Carnegie Hall? Well, I went, ok?

What else is in the pile? Well, I guess I can give you a very short tour. Apparently, I wanted to tell you about my visit to Las Vegas’s Guggenheim Hermitage Museum, right there at the Venetian Resort-Hotel-Casino, for its “Modern Masters” exhibit. (Short report: Weird.) At about the same time, I was probably going to blog about the 2007 National Finals Rodeo, my stay at the beautiful Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino (especially getting cruised, oh, so mightily, in the hotel spa), and meeting a handsome man at a hotel bar.

And, of course, I’ve still been investigating beer. It looks like I’ve got eight scraps of paper here from various beer and cheese tastings at Tria’s Fermentation School. Wow! What did I like at those events? Who can remember now? My notes do seem to contain the names of a lot of Belgian beers: Cantillon’s Broucsella 1900 Grand Cru; Duvel; the champagne-y Deus from Brouwerij Bosteels; Hanssens Kriek; an Imperial stout, Brasserie des Legendes Hercule Stout; St. Bernardus Abt 12, a delicious quadrupel; another Cantillon beer, the Cuvée des Champions 2003-2004 ; and a Flemish sour, Duchesse de Bourgogne. I even liked an Italian(!) craft beer, Birrificio Barley’s BB10, which my notes suggest is a hoppy, molasses-y barleywine. Yum.

According to these beer-soaked notes, I also liked several cheeses: Beaufort d’Alpage, which I described as a sort of King of the Gruyéres; a fresh goat cheese from Westfield Farm; an aged goat cheese, Bittersweet Plantation Dairy‘s Evangeline; and Split Creek’s Marinated Feta, yet another goat cheese.

Tria even turned me onto a wine, the 2004 Muscat de Rivesaltes from Clos des Camuzeilles, but I don’t have time anymore to explain why. So be it.

So that’s all the blog’s getting about my last few months. I’m sure I’ll return once in awhile to something that occurred in the fall and winter of 2007-08…. But I make no promises. I need a fresh start. From this point on, I’m looking to the future.

What a relief!

Whew.





Back to School

11 09 2007

Raw Milk
After a month-plus-long hiatus (I missed the place), I was back tonight at Tria Fermentation School for a class on cheese. The session was led by Phil Falsone, the executive chef and culinary educator for Hendricks Farms and Dairy—a local farm that’s making a name for its artisanal cheeses. Falsone taught a class at Tria in the spring, and I really enjoyed it, so I made sure to book a spot in tonight’s class, “Baby, I Like It Raw.” (Gosh, blush city.)

As the name of the class suggests, the topic was raw milk cheeses. We tasted seven different raw milk cheeses from Hendricks. My favorites were Hendricks’s Cow Pie, its take on a Camembert, all runny and delicious; its Cheddar Blue, which struck me tonight as more blue-y than before; and its Dirty Laundry, an amazingly aggressive blue cheese that’s flavored, somehow or other, with cherries. Falsone also let us taste from the first wheel of Hendricks’s new Preserve cheese, which, to my palate, had all the best qualities of the farm’s Colby cheese in a kind of super-concentrated fashion.

Tria served some delicious beverages tonight. There was a Farnum Hill extra-dry cider and Makana Meadery’s ¡Qhilika African Herbal Blossom Mead, which I’ve blogged about several times now. Two delicious beers were on hand, too—Southampton’s Saison, which I blogged about here, and Brouwerij Sint-Pieters’s Zinnebir. I believe this was my first tasting of the Zinnebir, and I was absolutely taken with its citrus-y and yeast-y funkiness. I definitely want to get my hands on some more Zinnebir.

It was good to be back at Tria’s school. Falsone leads a good class. In the spring, I described him as “100% cute and adorable.” That’s high praise for me, but it probably understates his charm, really. Of course, I could just be flattered that he remembered me. I know, though, that that’s probably because I made a fool of myself last time—memorably so?—over the Cow Pie.

But that Cow Pie is seriously delicious stuff.





Session Beers

25 07 2007

PA Breweries
Last night, I attended a Tria Fermentation School session led by beer writer (and local beer, um, demi-god) Lew Bryson. Oh, and that’s also newbie beer blogger Lew Bryson. (See, it’s already in the blogroll.) Bryson’s topic was session beers, or relatively low-alcohol brews that can be enjoyed one after the other. That, of course, is an excellent topic for the middle of summer, when you’re probably not going to hole up, fireside, with a high-alcohol beverage to sip….

We sampled seven beers, and I’d have to say I enjoyed six of those.1 (I’m easy, let’s face it.) Two, in particular, I can highly recommend. The first is actually one of my all-time favorites, Lindemans Gueuze. A gueuze is created by mixing young and, er, more mature Lambic-style beers. It’s a Belgian thing, of course. I’ve previously mentioned my passion for another Lambic, also by Lindemans. In fact, I’ve previously mentioned my passion for all things Belgian; I’d have to move to Brussels if Philly weren’t so strangely filled with Belgian restaurants and beers and waffles and chocolates.

Anyway….gosh, was that a digression or what?…the Lindemans Gueuze is un-fruited but somehow comes across as fruity. It’s sweet and, like a good Lambic, also lightly sour. It’s pure genius. If, like me, you don’t demand significant bitterness from your beer, you should check out a good gueuze. I’m a fan of Cantillon’s gueuze, too, but I’m an even bigger fan of the Lindemans, I think. (Side-by-side taste test, anyone?)

I also particularly enjoyed Legacy Brewing’s Midnight Wit. And, again, that’s a predictably Belgian-friendly preference: Although Legacy is brewed in Reading, Pa., it’s done in the style of a Belgian witbier. It was cloudy, like many wheat beers, and it offered a pleasant lemony taste. There was one off-putting note in its bouquet, an almost sulfuric smell, but the brew’s taste more than made up for that.

I can also say fairly nice things about four other beers: O’Hara’s Celtic Stout, a pleasant stout; Orlio’s Organic Common Ale, which was malty and sweet; Dr. Fritz Briem’s ‘1809’ Berliner Style Weisse, a fairly plain but lightly sour brew; and Stone’s Pale Ale, a light(!) pale ale. I probably didn’t enjoy any of these four enough to go out and buy a case or anything, but I wouldn’t turn any of them away.

Tria served us a really interesting sheep’s milk Gouda, Ewephoria (ha!), from the Netherlands. It offered a nutty, slightly sweet flavor, and it wasn’t at all sheep-y. It was firm and rather dry; I really enjoyed the feel of it in my mouth. It held up well against even the strong flavor of the Celtic Stout. I’m definitely keen to have some more.

So it was a good night. My only regret? That I absent-mindedly forgot to bring my copy of Pennsylvania Breweries for Bryson to sign.

1The exception? Sadly, it was a local-ish beer: Tröegs Sunshine Pils, which always just leaves me flat. On my palate, it’s almost flavorless, just watery and bitter. I’m sure this is about me, though, because so many people seem to enjoy it.





Victory

11 07 2007

Two Goats
Last night, I attended another Tria Fermentation School class, this one devoted to pairings of cheese and Victory Brewing Company beers. Victory is a local brewery, based in suburban Philadelphia, known more and more for Hop Devil, its über-hoppy IPA. Victory owner Bill Covaleski and Michael McCaulley, Tria’s wine director, led the session. (McCaulley focused on the cheeses.)

I was already familiar with several of the Victory brews. My favorites were the Whirlwind Wit, a Belgian-style wheat beer that offered some striking anise notes and a refreshing, clean flavor; the Golden Monkey, with its strong (yeast-y) banana on the nose; and the Storm King, Victory’s Imperial Stout, which—if anything—may have had too much coffee-type flavor for me (given my coffee-friendly palate, that’s not easy)

The big revelations last night were the cheeses. Two were goat cheeses: Westfield Farm’s Capri, which was paired with Victory’s Sunshine Weissbier, a light wheat beer; and Haystack Mountain’s Haystack Peak, which Covaleski and McCaulley paired with Victory’s Prima Pils pilsner. Both cheeses were fresh, light, and tangy—everything that you’d want in a summertime cheese. I also really enjoyed Jasper Hill’s Bartlett Blue, a raw cow (ho hum) cheese. The Bartlett Blue was so salty (“wildly salty” is what I wrote in my tasting notes) and yet full of blue-cheese flavor that it actually competed well with Victory’s strong Imperial stout. Jasper Hill makes an even stronger blue cheese, Bayley Hazen Blue, that I need to try. After all, I love blue cheese, and I love strong flavors.

After the session, I started daydreaming about moving back to Oklahoma, raising goats, and making delicious artisanal cheeses. That sounds like a lot of work, though. I’d need help. And as perpetually single as I already am, I’m thinking it might make my social life harder if I had to find goat-friendly dates. Egad.





Also, I eat.

1 07 2007

Waffle and Coffee
I’m not going to bore you with a blow-by-blow of the rest of my mini-“vacation” in the city. Suffice it to say that it mostly revolved around food. On Friday night, I enjoyed a beautiful filet mignon, medium rare; some creamed spinach; and a slice of key lime pie at Ruth’s Chris Steak House. Oh, and I started the meal off with a Tanqueray and tonic; for some reason, I have to have a gin and tonic before a steak…. Ruth’s Chris reminds me of New Orleans, which I miss.

On Saturday, after my last night at the hotel (which I also miss!), I started the morning off with Belgian-style waffles from Bonté.  These are not the air-filled waffles that most Americans think of as Belgian waffles, mind you.  I’m talking about the kind of sugar waffles that Belgians buy from street vendors.  If I lived in Bonté’s neighborhood, I’d probably have sugar waffles every day.  They’re just so sweet, so crispy, so wheat-y….  I’d also weigh 500 pounds if I lived in that neighborhood.  Those waffles are irresistible.





Vox Hunt: It’s a Thin Line. . .

25 06 2007

Vox Hunt: Show us something you love but everyone else hates.
Submitted by AKA Vasquez.

Sprouts





Question of the Day: I Scream

2 06 2007

Braum’s Ice Cream
What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream?

I’ve mentioned it before, but Braum’s peppermint ice cream, which I grew up loving, is probably my favorite ice cream. You can’t get Braum’s ice cream much beyond Oklahoma, though, so I have to make due with sloppy seconds. Right now, I’d say my favorite flavor was a Ben & Jerry’s flavor—probably Coffee Heath Bar Crunch, or Vanilla Heath Bar Crunch, or maybe just “plain” Coffee (see a pattern?).

I actually don’t each that much ice cream. I like for my jeans to fit, and eating ice cream is the quickest route to a new waist size…. So when I’m looking for some cold sweetness, I often opt for sorbet, water ice, or a lime popsicle (actually, a “frozen fruit bar“). Since it’s already hitting 90° nearly every day, I’m looking for some cold sweetness a lot—especially after the long, hot walk home from the train station after work.