Homebrewing, a story of personal growth… #sarcasm

I’ve learned a new language. Here’s a sample:

add strike water to grain bill in tun.
or, allow for conversion by leaving mash covered for an hour
or, lauter until wort exiting tun is no longer cloudy
or, boil wort, cool, siphon into carboy and pitch yeast

This is the language of brewing. I was examining my life a bit, when I realized; I know someone who smokes their own fish and meat, I know someone who makes their own tonic (like tonic for gin & tonics!), and I know someone who pickles everything imaginable from their own garden… how incredible is it to be self-sustaining in the 21st century? It’s a novel concept, and yet it was common practice 3 or 4 generations ago.

I have noticed the trend, and hopefully I am not the only one so excited about it, that singular good producers and service suppliers are reentering the markets, battling with the sometimes terrifying monster that is globalization, but emerging from the past nonetheless. So while I can pick up some fresh milled rye flour and handmade soap from my farmer’s market, a pound of fresh pasta from Dave’s, and any fresh baked loaf from Iggy’s, I can also crack open a bottle of my own home-brewed beer.

It’s so brilliant and so ordinary all at the same time. Now do not read this as a cry for complete self reliance. There is no way I can willingly give up my Piedmont-ese wine, South American 70% dark chocolate, and Ugandan coffee beans. My claims are more of a cry for awareness, for balance. I figured, sure, I can brew beer. And so I did! It was as simple as such. If there’s a farmer’s market near by, go to it. It’s just like a grocery store, but all of the produce is infinitely of better quality because it’s fresh and it’s local.

Regardless of the significance, let me say, these brews are coming out damn good.

The process, essentially:

The first go around was a basic brown ale. It had bright hop flavors co-mingling with caramel roast-y notes. Though über low on carbonation, soda-like carbonation is something we have been tricked into accepting more of from the commercial producers, it’s a result that I am very pleased with and would absolutely enjoy if I had picked it up as a 6-pack from any of my favorite breweries.

the brown ale!
the brown ale!

The second round brewed at home was a English pale ale, classified as an Extra Special Bitter *Extra special…oooh, aaah*. Sipping it right now, for the first time after bottling on Saturday, another success. Imagine you’ve taken a seat at the bar of a pub, maybe not in London, but in some town representative of authentic England, maybe a sort of rural location. The interior’s dark, with weathered leather seating, and an older gentleman polishing glasses behind the counter. This is what’s on draft. You can’t taste the hops, but the bitterness is there as an after taste, the carbonation of fine bubbles imparts a silky sort of feel, and there are notes of biscuity malt and even some of those banana esters. It’s real nice.

This is probably the most shocking aspect of the whole production. This brown liquid, strained off of a pile of milled malt, bubbling away in the hallway upstairs, morphed into some good, honestly delicious, beer. I can’t say exactly what I was expecting, perhaps this reveals my pessimistic tendencies!

This is nice: Craft Beer – A Hopumentary

p.s. I highly suggest clicking the links I provide while writing all these posts, otherwise it’s likely that you can’t understand a fu**ing thing I am trying to communicate. Listen here, I spent the time learning about it all, you could at least take a look 😉

p.p.s definitely watch this > How Beer Saved the World. It’s hilarious and it’s true. Deal with it, beer allowed for human civilization to evolve.

13 Favorite Posts of 2013

It’s been a wild ride here. This little thing, the virtual and unofficial publication of ideas, has morphed almost unrecognizably from my first post in October 2012. The direction it’s headed in? I haven’t the slightest idea. But I will continue to write about issues that inspire, restaurants that excite, and perhaps a bit more on films that stimulate.

Quite a few of these selections are chronicles of my time spent in Europe this summer, really pleasant memories reflected there. I mention this because soon enough I will release the photo album! I’ve been picking away at it for months and it is certainly due for public viewing by now.

Here is the so judged crème de la crème, cream of the crop… do you agree? If you’ve missed any posts, these are the one’s of repute:

Bread & Circus
Very important post in this corner of the internet
Happy People and a Couple of Dreams
passionate, considerate, and altruistic #MCC2013
To Write What Is True
Wine in France, Beer in England, and Whisky in Scotland…
Just a glimpse: Tuileries (Champs-Elysées before, Musée d’Orsay to come)
Edinburgh Festivals!
A little story
This is Life (to me)
Blue Jasmine, and a commentary
Alder
Sam’s at Louis

AFAR Magazine

I don’t read many travel magazines, or other sorts of publications in that genre, but I rely heavily on AFAR to get my wanderlust fix. I’ve been subscribed to the magazine since it was first realeased a few years ago, and I look forward to each new issue with such glee. Most recently, I’m getting the impression that the content is changing… but they do stay true to the concept of “experiential travel”, meaning throwing yourself into the culture, interacting with the locals, and trying to get meaning out of the experience. I say the content is changing because I’m noticing features on spas and isolated bungalows, which definitely cut out any chances for “meaningful experiences”. This is, however, the source of one of my all time favorite pieces of published material. The article transcends the idea of travel into this realm of commentary on human interaction and it’s phenomenal. The reason I bring your attention to AFAR today, is because I wanted to share the super database they’ve inspired online. Members are encouraged to compose “Highlights”, just little snippets of places to eat, drink, and visit. The whole thing is slowly growing to be an incredible resource for inspiration. Basically share any neighborhood feature you love to visit and look up what other people may have added. Just a note, I said it’s growing, so you’re most likely to find highlights concentrated on the bigger and frequently visited cities. But it’s still worth a look, especially my account (shameless plugging).

That is all, thank you! Read the article though, seriously.

Just a glimpse: Tuileries (Champs-Elysées before, Musée d’Orsay to come)

Today has been magnificently hot. Like if I was one of those types who enjoyed the heat, I would find myself in glorious bliss right now. I am not, however, one of those types. I prefer cool breezes, even a bit of snow, to anything above 75 F, and it is currently 97 F.

image

From the refuge of  shady spot between the Seine and the Tuileries, I can see the buildings of Paris glow like the embers of a sweltering fire. And while the foliage in the park seems lush and supple, the leaves directly overhead are dried and crisp like potato chips. Feeling hydrated and satieted by iced tea and macarons, my attention is more attuned to my other senses. I hear the steady hum of traffic, mixed with an alternation of ravens caw-ing and seagulls… making whatever sound they do, distant cries of joyful children, and the occasional rustling of potato chip leaves. This breeze is far from relieving,  if anything it’s like being in a convection oven, the wind just moving about the hot air. Yet I cannot help but find visual delight. The faint scent of cigarette smoke heightens the “Parisian” scene. This is a moment I would like to remember. The expanse of the gardens, dotted with sculptures (who must not be bothered much in this weather because they’re nude), ahead, a backdrop of the classic architecture, the combination of sounds, even the heat, and the promise of my lifetime’s fill of Impressionist paintings from the Musée d’Orsay. These are all things I would like to distill into a singular potent memory, to keep in my bar and infuse into my life as needed.

image

Cape of the Codders (aka Cape Cod)

This part of the world is not well known. While everyone in Massachusetts is aware of its SINGNIFICANCE, it’s rare that anyone outside of this culture has any idea of what “The Cape” is. In modern times, the Cape is where almost all of MA invest in vacation homes, rent hotel rooms and cottages, or take the adventerous route and go camping. It’s the beachy destination where MA residents trifle their summers away. Cape Cod of the past, most specifically Provincetown, was colonized by the English settlers who started to farm the land, then popularized by the fishing industry, and most recently made famous by artists and writers, seeking solace and inspiration from the coast’s crashing waves and swaying beach grasses.

It’s all very romantic. But the Cape I know is of a different breed. I relish the sundreched days and salty air of Truro. The distant sound of wind and waves lullling me to sleep. I find that it is a land of instant familiarity without having seen the place since June of the previous year. My Provincetown, while often stuffed with tourists in the peak season, is a little oasis. Packed to the brim with little shops and restaurant, and not a chain business in sight (besides the one stop & shop). Where everyone, it’s residents and visitors, is so friendly and engaging. True, it’s a mecca for people of the not-so-straight persuasion (what am I saying, not straight at all!) but that just gives the town a sort of attitude that anything goes.

I’m still exploring, after all these years, what the outer cape (the real cape) has to offer. But here’s a list of tried and true places for a day trip.

First things first, coffee! Wired Puppy is a small cafe, the espresso drinks are expensive, but the iced coffee and ginger lemonade are top notch.

Grab lunch and head to the beach, ocean or bayside, depends on your temperature tolerance! 141 Bradford is a natural market whose products are the likes (and price) of Whole Foods, but the take away food made there is delicious!

For dinner: Victor’s, oh Victor’s. THE place to get an excellent meal in Ptown. It’s “new american” cuisine, but the menu is innovative and the quality of ingredients speak for themselves. The service is superb as well. This place deserves a post of its own, and deserves way more attention than it gets, but perhaps that’s its charm.

The Crown and Anchor (inn, tavern, and nightclub) has everything going on, like; pool parties (high cover charge), a bar with a maestro on the piano, orange leathery skin with a big white smile, belting out songs from popular musicals all night long, and a pretty decent bar menu, we had lunch while watching Wimbledon this year.

After whatever wild (or tame, I don’t know your style) night you’ve concocted, head to Spiritus pizza to soak up the alcohol and get you functioning at your full capacity. I’ve never been, but as the bars start to close the crowd around this place turns into a mob, taking up a whole block.

All of these places are located in Provincetown, the tip of Massachusetts’ arm. This is the Cape that I am familiar with, and admire, and dream of. Even as I’m in London, I am wishing for a cool cape breeze and and a bike ride down 6A. C’est la vie, I’ve found something close to perfection and nothing quite compares.

Is there perhaps a Provincetown photo journal in this blogger’s future, I must show you what I see!

Booze, Beans, & Biscuits

As I began to write this post, I was in a severe food comma. We had just got home from brunch at Nick’s on Broadway. If you’ve never been, drop what you’re doing grab a flight/train/cab/get in your car, and go right now. This place is really fantastic, and the people in Providence definitely know it. Although there’s almost always a wait,  it is well worth it, it ought to be considered a kind of event anyways!

Alexis, my roommate, and I went for lunch on Saturday to celebrate my 21st birthday that was on Friday. There was food, of  course, but because we were celebrating my 21st, I think it’s best that I mention the booze first. How can people drink bloody mary’s? And enjoy them?! I felt compelled to order the classic brunch cocktail that morning, but it did not fly. Whether it’s this specific recipe or my perception of bloody mary’s in general, ick, never again, not for me. We definitely recuperated from that offense when we tried Alexis’ white sangria and my Cocchi Americano. Cocchi Americano is an aperitif, meaning a low alcohol drink meant to “stimulate the appetite”. And Cocchi Americano is a “fortified [meaning added alcohol] Moscato d’Asti wine steeped with bitter, quinine-rich cinchona bark, citrus peel, and other botanicals.” Basically, you got some wine, you make it a little stronger, add some other flavoring elements, and serve it on it’s own or in other drinks. In this particular instance, it was served with a few lemon sections and a bit of soda water. It certainly did it’s job to whet the apetite and and was particularly delicious. Bought myself a bottle at work a few hours later!

Mess
Conglomerate of liquids with varying and contrasting effects

After the long wait, between waiting for a table and for our orders to arrive, we enjoyed a DELICIOUS meal of Fried Eggs over Black Beans (with a biscuit on the side) and Fried Eggs over Pork and Bean Cassoulet. The biscuit was so yummy, they clearly pay some attention to these tasty, crunchy, buttered goodies. Not to sound too cliché, but it is the little things. If even the humble biscuits are a prime product, you can be assured of the quality of everything else that comes from that kitchen. The black beans were so flavorful, they really took the dish to a whole ‘nother level from brunch food. I was incredibly satisfied, body, mind, and soul-wise after that meal. We finished with a caramel bread pudding, which was just fine. A bite started great but finished with a raw whole wheat flavor.

Black BeansCassoulet

Biscuit

Bread Pudding

I noticed something worth mentioning that day. When I go out to eat, I like to take my time. I like to linger over my food, enjoy extended conversation with my friends, really make an event of the experience. I need the 2 hours, if I’m allowed it, to pay some attention to my food and comfortably value the time I have dedicated.

I strongly recommend this restaurant for any meal, although I’ve only experienced the breakfast/brunch menu. It is a wonderful place because the chef, Derek Wagner, is committed to incorporating local farmers and producers in his dishes. I realize the whole “local food movement” seems like some trend, but it needs to become the way we do things in order to support a sustainable agricultural system.

p.s. Here’s a great little website I stumbled on, The Perennial Plate. These short episodes they post are a great way to feed the travel bug in you. I don’t know much about the site, or filmmakers, but I like what they’re doing.

http://www.theperennialplate.com/episodes/2012/11/episode-106-for-udon-and-country/

The Past Few Days

What a week! Had some time to rest, did a ton of baking, I am ready for the next trimester to begin. I had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner, as always. Our hosts pulled out all the stops, a very veggie-friendly menu, plenty of wine, and a huge turkey which I imagine pleased many bellies. For dessert, I contributed a vanilla cheesecake topped with stewed apples, a pumpkin cheesecake coated in a brandy ganache, and pecan pie! I always refer to the Philadelphia cheesecake recipe, and use my preferred brand of cream cheese instead. Make sure to use a water bath, and I added the contents of a vanilla bean as well. For the pumpkin flavor, I added about 10 ozs. of canned pumpkin to the batter of 1/2 of the Philadelphia recipe (for a smaller cake). Also used this pecan pie recipe, no corn syrup for me please, and added 2 tablespoons of bourbon right before pouring into the baked pie crust.

Splitting a vanilla bean:

Last night consisted of 11pm pancakes as well, a totally sound idea I know. Getting into the spirit of a new trimester, that’s what that was. And our Christmass tree is up! In my mind, the second Thanksgiving celebrations are over, it’s acceptable to put up Christmas decorations and play Christmas music… select Christmas music. It was snowing today, after all.

This is quite the uninformative post, isn’t it? Forgive me, I am still in vacation mode. Instead, let me refer you to the Kitchn for something with more substance.