Friday, July 30, 2010

The End of History

From Clay Risen at The Atlantic:
As Jeff Goldberg noted the other day, the Scottish brewery BrewDog recently debuted a 55 percent alcohol-by-volume beer, cheekily naming it The End of History—after Francis Fukuyama's famous book, of course—and declaring it the world's most alcoholic brew. And at $780 a bottle, it's among the world's most expensive. Oh, and it comes stuffed inside a squirrel or stoat. Oh, and the brewery's other beers have names like Punk Monk, Trashy Blonde, and How to Disappear Completely.

Not really something I'd be interested in trying unless it was free... though it's sold out regardless. I don't see how a 55% ABV (110 proof) beer is going to taste like anything other than a grain alcohol with some faint beer undertones... but if you read Risen, their "Tactical Nuclear Penguin" beer at 32% ABV... the beer that apparently started the crazy contest between Scotts and Germans that lead to The End of History... you'll see it is generating some serious buzz (in more ways than one I guess), but at a more reasonable, though still fairly outrageous, $50-60 a bottle. Maybe worth trying, but I'm fairly skeptical.

Also, if you like people with Scottish accents dessed as penguins and talking about "extreme beer making", this video might be for you:

Tactical Nuclear Penguin from BrewDog on Vimeo.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Chicken with Roasted Peppers and Salsa Verde

From a Serious Eats post that Anna sent along last week. Turned out pretty well, though it looks like my sauce didn't thicken quite as much as it was supposed to... and I burned my silicon tongs a bit roasting the peppers... but I really liked the flavor and spice of the poblanos. Strangely the recipe seems to be lacking instructions regarding the onions... I just cooked them until they were starting to brown.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Ted Leo vs. Tears for Fears

This must be old news to most music fans, but as an Old Fogey without his ear to the Pavement, it was news to me... the AV Club is running a series where bands come in and do covers of various songs... the most recent being Superchunk covering The Cure... which is solid, but it was Ted Leo and his Pharmacists rocking some Tears for Fears that I wanted to highlight. Pretty cool.


I caught a cold this weekend that I'm trying to knock out by resting today... so no blogging probably... and no, that cold is not called "Starcraft II Release Day." Didn't even buy it.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Bagels with Vital Wheat Gluten

As mentioned below, we were up in Maine this past weekend to visit with Anna's family... and she had the bright idea for me to make the Peter Reinhart water bagels that were such a hit with our friends a few months ago. The problem? I didn't have enough high gluten flour to make another batch, nor enough time to order another package. Obviously I could have just made them with bread flour and done with some less chewy bagels... but since I live with a vegetarian who (sometimes) makes her own seitan... why not use vital wheat gluten as an additive to doctor up regular flour? While I doubt many non-vegetarians and/or non-bakers even know it exists, the advantage of vital wheat gluten is that it's more widely available at places like Whole Foods than high gluten flour... so if it worked, it might open up the homemade bagel making to people who don't want to hassle with ordering flour online.

Luckily somebody on the internets already had this idea, and comes to the conclusion that using 97% all purpose flour with 3% vital wheat gluten gets it right. Handily 3% of the total amount of flour in Reinhart's recipe comes out to almost exactly 1 ounce... so I just substituted one ounce of vital wheat gluten for one of the ounces of flour in the sponge and called it a day. Obviously this is not mathematically precise, since I have no idea how much protein the flour I was using had versus the protein in hers, but the general concept definitely works.

The bagels were just as good, if not better, than my previous batch. Wonderfully chewy and nearly perfect... the only thing I'm still working on is getting better browning (baking soda in the water was tried this time and was not particularly impressive).

EveryTrail Android App

We were up in Maine this weekend to see Anna's family, but we did manage to get a hike in (my first of the summer, gah!). Unfortunately, my Garmin Forerunner 305 was mysteriously lacking in battery charge... despite being on the charger all week... and, in addition, the weather was pretty uncooperative... raining all morning and leaving behind a thick fog all afternoon.

This provided a pretty good opportunity to check out the EveryTrail app that allows you to GPS a trip and sync up photos taken from your smart phone to post online. Obviously the best comparison would be to GPS a hike with my phone and with my Forerunner at the same time and see how close they are... but until I get a chance to do that (next weekend maybe) I'll just assume the track is accurate. It's really easy to use and the photo integration is seamless... but I found the photos themselves to be extraordinarily disappointing. I don't know how much of this was due to my crappy cell phone camera or the ever present fog, but I suspect a regular point and shoot digital camera would be a vast upgrade in picture quality. Another minor annoyance is that it doesn't display the hike stats (e.g. average speed, mileage, etc) on the main screen but on another one that's somewhat hidden in the interface.

I'll probably stick to my Forerunner/Powershot combo for hikes... but if you don't have a handheld GPS (and you probably don't) but you do have an iPhone or Android based phone... this is a pretty cool way to document your travels.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Dinner with the Band

detektor just told me about this show on IFC... that appears to be basically what the title says: a band comes by and performs a couple songs and the host (Sam Mason) cooks them dinner. Unfortunately there are no free episodes online anywhere... it's iTunes or Amazon at $1.99 an episode for people like me with no cable. Might be worth checking out... music and food is like chocolate in my peanut butter... certainly I'll be downloading the Les Savy Fav episode at the very least.

Homemade Tofu Burgers

A way around the processed fake meat products problem posted at 101 Cookbooks... though it has some eggs to bind the ingredients... which makes sense, but will make it useless to vegans. Note that I've yet to make something from her that I really like (2 or 3 attempts)... we must have very different palates... so I'm not necessarily endorsing this one, but having a stable of homemade vegetarian burger options for the summer seems like a good thing.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Farmed Salmon vs. GMO's

Author Paul Greenberg has an interesting post about changes that could be made to salmon farming that would reduce their carbon footprint and avoid the evil specter of AquAdvantage® Salmon in our supermarkets. Now, I find the copyright of lifeforms to be just as creepy as most... I've read The Windup Girl (great book)... and am as aware of the nightmare scenarios as anybody... but I'm still probably the only liberal on the planet who thinks GMO's are inevitably going to be a part of the solution to feeding the world's population in an environmentally and ethically responsible manner. I guess I just don't understand why people are so creeped out by the entire concept. If we can genetically modify a fish to vastly reduce the carbon footprint of raising it... shouldn't that be on the table? I guess 99% of all food reform advocates are strenuously against such a thing, but I think they're living in a dream world if they think we can feed 9 billion plus people in 2050 on operations modeled after Neiman Ranch.

A New York Pig Roast

Cooking a pig in the ground is a lot more work than I ever could have imagined... and likely to involve firetrucks if you do it in Brooklyn. Cool to read about, but definitely not something I have even the vaguest interest in trying... not that I wouldn't gladly accept an invitation, mind you.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Lack of Cooking

I took a look at my recipes tag/label and noticed it's blank after the latest quiche effort... now, granted, I went on vacation, which meant avoiding cooking anything big the week prior... and then not cooking much while gone (did make some gazpacho)... and now we're going up to Maine for two consecutive weekends. I will make an effort to cook and blog something early next week, but note that it is summer and ridiculously hot... so it's not terribly tempting to turn on the oven.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Vegetarian Processed Food is Still Processed Food

A not very surprising (to me anyway) and maybe a little short, but still interesting article at Mother Jones on the environmental costs of fake meat products:
In general, Eshel says, it's true that raw veggies are an excellent nutritional bargain: For every 100 calories of energy put into producing conventional beef, from farm to supermarket shelf, you get only six calories back to eat. Compare that with apples, which yield 110 calories, or raw soy: an amazing 415. In terms of greenhouse gases, switching from a diet that includes red meat to a plants-only one is roughly equivalent to trading in your SUV for a Camry.

But a girl can only eat so much roasted kale before she starts craving protein: tofu, veggie burgers, and the (okay, creepy) occasional piece of fakin' bacon. But coaxing soy into a red-and-white rectangular strip takes work—which is why Eshel believes most veggie burgers are the caloric equivalent of "shooting yourself in the foot." A 2009 study by the Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology found that while producing a plate of peas requires a fraction of the energy needed to produce the same number of calories of pork, the energy costs of a pea-burger and a pork chop are about equal.

Personally I've always found fake meat products to be incredibly dumb... especially in this day and age, where you can do a fair amount to ensure that your eating meat from humanely treated animals. Obviously there's still going to be some animal blood on your hands, but if you feel there is a whole in you life that can be filled by a tofurkey... you should probably just eat the turkey.

Iron Chef now Bluefin Free

An interesting story at Bittman's blog about how a sustainability focused food blogger called out Alton Brown... and Alton Brown responded.

Food Miscellany

  • Food 52 has yummy looking food, but often I think their winning dishes are a little too... I dunno.. foodie, I guess?
  • Like the Amateur Gourmet, I have made this pickled snap pea recipe... and it is awesome... though aren't sugar snaps out of season by now? Maybe it's still cool enough in places like Maine?
  • An interesting Mexican beer cocktail I'd never heard of.
  • Crabs.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Life & Limb

Sorry about the blurriness... I only had my Powershot and auto focus was being ornery. (Yeah, I really wanted to be able to read the menus on the bar... thanks camera!) I blogged about Life & Limb back in December when it got some press (strangely the link to the original article is broken)... never was able to find a bottle of it... all the local stores did have it at one time, but were out (with no hope of more) by the time I knew anything about it. Perhaps not surprisingly, Dogfish Head had a bunch of bottles available at their brew pub that you could only drink on site (stupid liquor laws)... and while I'm not much into strong dark ales, I felt like I had to try it while I had the chance. You're probably better off going to Beer Advocate if you're looking for a serious evaluation, but I thought it was pretty good and quite interesting in it's character with a good balance of flavors... would definitely drink it again, though that seems a little unlikely unless they still have bottles next summer. I don't think I'd say it's worth the effort to make a special pilgrimage for it... it's just a beer after all, and merely an above average one at that... but if you're vacationing in the area it's definitely worth a stop.

Friday, July 9, 2010

To the Beach!

I will be off the grid and burning my pasty white flesh in Delaware... land of no sales tax and the never ending toll roads to finance it... but the beaches are nice. Some Dogfish Head will be consumed.

I'll be back and blogging Monday July 19th.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Tips for Stovetop Coffee

Giorgio Milos on the Atlantic Food Channel lays out the proper way to make coffee in one of those silver Moka pots that many of us have for making espresso at home:
While the process is simple to understand, knowing some finer points makes all the difference. First and foremost is grind. If you have a home grinder, go for medium. Too fine of a grind, like you'd use for espresso, results in a burnt and bitter taste from water passing through the ground coffee too slowly, causing over-extraction. Beans ground too coarsely, as for French press, produces an overly light body and sour taste, as water passing through the grounds too quickly leads to under-extraction.

Important: do not press (tamp) the coffee in the filter. If you do, the pressure won't be sufficient for the rest of the process to work properly, leading once again to over-extraction. If you prefer a stronger flavor profile, fill up the filter just up to its capacity, not more and not less. Fill the lower chamber with cold water up to the valve or marked line—read the manual carefully—and set it on a low flame, properly extracting the coffee slowly at a lower temperature.

Critical final step: turn off the flame when the upper section is half full, to avoid overheating and burning the coffee. As the water approaches boiling, which you don't want to happen, the process rapidly accelerates, extracting bitter, unpleasant flavors—creating a burnt taste—and upsetting the beautifully balanced aromatic equilibrium the Moka method is known for. That hiss my grandmother took as "coffee's done" signal comes from steam, and steam burns coffee.
I was already well aware that "boiling is bad" for coffee... but I had always thought you wanted as fine a grind as possible for espresso. Maybe that's only for the machines? What only just occurred to me (since it's Anna who makes the espresso) is that this is exactly the same procedure I do for my vacuum pot to make "regular" coffee... except there too fine a grind risks clogging the gasket/filter. I suppose the Moka gets to a much higher pressure in order to make espresso possible?

photo by Flickr user globevisions used under a Creative Commons license

A Visit to the Abattoir

Jay Rayner, participating in Fodder's "On the Hoof" program... where customer/students go with a butcher to choose a cow and subsequently learn how to break it down... makes a visit to the abattoir:
Ah yes, the knotty business of slaughter. I have long been a vociferous carnivore, and yet I have never witnessed the end of an animal I am going to eat. This has always struck me as wrong. In print I have never shied away from the realities of eating meat, argued that we need to escape the notion of it as something portioned and tight-packaged under cellophane. In practice I have avoided that reality. And so, as part of On the Hoof – very much a voluntary part – I will also be going to the abattoir to see the animal I have chosen being killed.
This is a contradiction in my own life... though granted I'm not a famous food writer... that I often think about when looking at meat "portioned and tight-packaged under cellophane." I do believe that there is a value in seeing, say, a porterhouse when it's still inside a "rusty-brown coloured, 13-month-old Limousin cow, dark of eye and furry of coat"... and to watch the process of slaughter and butchery... to see if I still saw meat the same way afterwards. Not to ruin any suspense... and if you eat meat I think you would do yourself a service to go read his description of the process and look at the pictures (some blood, but not terribly graphic) before continuing... but Jay Rayner at least, claims to feel exactly the same about meat as before he entered the slaughterhouse... and in a subsequent blog post offers up this question:
I asked Christine Thompson, who with her husband David had raised this herd, whether everybody should be forced to make the connection between animal and carcass. No, she said, because it might put people off eating meat and that was not in their commercial interests. Fair enough.

So then, do you think if you had to witness the death of an animal it would put you off meat eating? More to the point, do you think anybody who chooses to eat animals should be forced, as I have done, to witness what goes on in a slaughterhouse?
I suspect that if I visited some of the factory farms where meat I've grabbed off the shelf, without any consideration of provenance, came from... I'd be put off that for good. Suggesting strongly that I should be paying a lot more attention to whether meat I consume is humanely raised... than I have been. I make an effort, but the closest Supermarket to me does not have a large selection of such products... and convenience has won out a fair bit. However, I don't think the slaughter itself would particularly bother me. I'm sure it would be unpleasant, but I doubt it would change my opinions much unless it seemed to me that there was a lot more suffering involved than I've seen described.

Now should people be forced to visit a slaughterhouse? It sounds like a Simpsons episode... and I wonder how far you can take it... should you be forced to use the bolt gun? Learn the proper jugular slitting technique so the cow's blood drains out most effectively? A slaughterhouse visitation requirement for meat consumption is obviously unrealistic regardless (some quick math suggests it would take nearly 40 years of 24 hour 7 days a week visits to get the US population an hour in one of our 900 slaughterhouses)... but it seems to me there should probably be more opportunities for people to learn about that side of things. To me, even just seeing the sides of beef hanging... still very recognizable as having once been animals... would be an important step for most folks... and that could simply be accomplished by having more visible butchery in the Supermarket. Visits to farms to meet the animals would be even better, and maybe even convince a few people that they don't want to eat the cute cow. But I don't see there being much justification to force people to watch their food die first, simply because we hope it will upset them enough to become vegetarians.

Ultimately I don't think it's the slaughter itself that matters, but that the animals have a good life leading up to a humane death... and that we are more cognizant of that, than actually seeing the blood drain as some sort of meat eating hazing ritual.

photo by Flickr user Jaydot used under a Creative Commons license

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Apple Friend Bar

I find this funny mainly because I just learned today that there is a real life Apple dating site... with 22,000 paying members... so presumably you would only be dating people who wanted to hear about your Apple products. It seems like Onion might not aimed high enough with this parody.

Spain vs. Germany

Obviously Spain is talented enough to beat Germany, since they did it two years ago (and have only lost twice since)... but the Germans have been playing lights out and Spain has seemed pretty off... who knows if that keeps up today, but I'm betting on the team that absolutely destroyed Argentina on the counterattack.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Netherlands vs. Uruguay

I don't know why I'm not a believer in the Dutch... they beat Brazil after all... and they've got some guys who make very pretty goals... but I'm just not. However with Suarez out you gotta think Uruguay will just be too shorthanded on offense to win... certainly if you are just rooting for an exciting game you're rooting for the Dutch, since Uruguay will batten down the hatches and hope to get lucky on the counter. I don't know... all signs point to a concvincing win for the Netherlands... but I've just got a feeling about Uruguay.

UPDATE: A Balloon Juice commenter points out the Suarez was bragging about the handball and generally taunting the Ghanaians... which I didn't see or hear. Allegiance switched on account of poor sportsmanship! Go Dutch!

Everybody Likes French Fries

More on the picky eating front:
Picky eaters tend to gravitate to certain foods, including blander products that are often white or pale colored, like plain pasta or cheese pizza. For reasons that aren't clear, almost all adult picky eaters like French fries and often chicken fingers, health experts say.
There is a woman in that article who compares spaghetti to a plate full of grass, which I can't even get my head around. It's not something people normally would call an "eating disorder", but it sure sounds like some of these people's lives are pretty adversely affected by their picky eating.

Beet Hate

Amy Sullivan trying to conquer a dislike of beets, describes them thusly:
The problem with beets, as half the world knows, is that they taste like dirt. (The other half—beet-lovers—prefers the euphemism "earthy," but they're not fooling anyone.) As food dislikes go, beets are a popular one. Australians apparently like the vegetable so much that they eat their burgers with a thick slice of beet on top. But in the U.S., it's hard to find people who grew up liking beets. Far more common are tales of negative childhood experiences with canned beets, gritty magenta slabs that contaminated everything else on the plate.

Somewhat shockingly... as a reforming picky eater... I like beets. I always assumed I hated them, but unlike Amy Sullivan, a "fine dining experience" showed me that I was wrong. They don't smell or taste "earthy" to me at all. I wonder if this is like the cilantro thing?

Friday, July 2, 2010


Let's go Black Stars! 1-0 Ghana at the half.

World Cup Quarterfinals

Kind of a shame that four of the five best teams left (out of eight) are all meeting in the quarters. Also a shame that Brazil-Netherlands starts in an hour and a half instead of being the afternoon game that I could leave early to watch. I'd make some predictions, but they'd pretty much all be chalk... I'd like to believe Ghana can win, but the Uruguay I've seen is just too good... though I'll root for the Black Stars regardless. The Netherlands could certainly beat Brazil this morning as well, but aside from the Germans, it doesn't seem the Europeans are really coming that strong... though I will say that the Dutch are the one team I haven't seen a full (or even half) game from, so maybe I'm underestimating them. Spain seems really off, and probably the ripest for an upset, but I can't see them falling to Paraguay.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


My Xbox displayed the infamous "Red Ring of Death" last night while I was trying to get Puzzle Quest 2 off of Xbox Live... annoyingly it died during the download, instead of before I paid for the game... where otherwise I could purchase the Nintendo DS version of the game with a clear conscious. Alas.

According to Amazon, I purchased the Halo 3 Special Edition Xbox 360 on October 3rd 2007... so its life was tragically cut short a mere four months from its third birthday... which would have put it out of the extended warranty that still covers hardware failure. So that's convenient timing I guess (plus we'll be leaving for a week long vacation a week from Friday). While I have been jealously eying the new Xbox, I'd rather be able to eBay my old one first to subsidize the upgrade.

I've already contacted customer support online... which required registering the Xbox first, then filling out a quick description of the problem. Apparently I'm on the hook for the basic repair fee ($100) if they get it and it doesn't RRoD, since the standard warranty is long since out of date. I guess in the past they would ship you a box with a return shipping label, but nowadays they just pay for shipping and you provide the box/bubble wrap... and either have to drop it off at a UPS store or have your regular guy pick it up. I've got to see if I can scavenge a box and packing materials at work, but luckily there is a UPS store across the street from me, so dropping it in the mail shouldn't be a problem.

R.I.P Halo 3 Xbox, 10/3/2007-6/30/2010, Never Forget

photo by flickr user inajeep used under a Creative Commons license