I had a conversation today with my boss, one of the few that didn’t end with shouting, about tattoos.  He asked me if I was to get another tattoo, how would I go about choosing a place.  I came up with a lot of different reasons some related to location but most about the man with the gun if you will.  I told him to disregard all flash on the wall, unless it was hand drawn, and go right to the book.  If you get a sense of the artists style and it vibes with you, that’s your guy.  If you don’t care either way…move on.  So he looks at me and thinks about what I mean by style.  So I look at him and think about the same.  A lot about a person is expressed through unconscious repetition that is ultimately recognized as their style.  This is also true of course in cooking and can be both a blessing and a curse.  There is a line between being one dimensional or gimmicky and being focused enough to make recognizable food.

You'll never know

You'll never know

I notice myself certain tastes and ingredients I constantly look to.  Fresh herbs, mostly parsley, cilantro, and Thai basil.  Chile, of all kinds dried and fresh.  Vinegar. Toasted Cumin and Coriander. These things just kind of sneak their way into whatever I’m cooking.  To tie this into what I was thinking when I was planning the menu for this weeks dinners, Margaret has been on Weight Watchers for a month or so now.  She doesn’t need to lose weight at all but it’s a good way to maintain where she’s at without yo-yoing.  The funny thing is that I eat the exact same stuff she does albeit in larger portions.  I don’t feel like I’m on a diet, neither does she.  The reason lies in those above mentioned ingredients.  My cooking style lends itself so well to healthy eating that with a few tweaks to my usual recipes, we have food that works for her Weight Watchers and everything else.

Spicy is the new Crunchy

Spicy is the new Crunchy

I wanted to share some of the tips that work for me and because I’m in charge of all cooking in the house, much like the chef hiding underneath the white house to my latin Michelle Obama, these would also be the tips that work for her.

First eliminate white rice and pasta and replace it with brown rice and wheat pasta.  Immediately.  The loophole if you will with Weight Watchers is that the higher the fiber content of the ingredient the lower the overall points end up.  While white rice and brown rice are identical calorie wise, the extra fiber in the brown rice allows it a lower point value.

Second, plan meals around a set point value.  Margaret will often tell me in advance that she has between 8-12 points for dinner which gives me some direction in what I’m trying to make.  When I look at the total points of each ingredient going in the recipe vs. points of a single serving, it’s much easier to conceptualize what you’re doing while still controlling the points in the dish.

In general a protein serving is 2-4 points, a starch is 4 points, and vegetables are typically 1 point if that.  So the third trick is to become comfortable making sauces, chutneys, glazes, gastriques, gremolatas, whatever that can for a decent serving not exceed 2 points.  This is where the herbs, fresh ground spices, and chiles come in handy.  Even enchilada sauce can be made from scratch for about 2 points.

Greek Yogurt is my best friend ever.  She calls it sour cream and pretends.  Cute.

Spicy is just as satisfying as crunchy.  That’s why buffalo wings are the first thing that you’re served when you get to Heaven, it doesn’t get better than that.

I’m laughing as I finish writing this because so much about the recent interest in artisan made and local food is about the return to fat.  The unctious, melting, it’s ok because it’s not from a factory or wrapped in plastic, good stuff that at one point everybody was afraid of.  Alice Q Foodie has a great post about her trip to the Publican in Chicago where her mother tells the waiter that she doesn’t like the rillete on their charcuterie plate because, “it’s all fat” and the waiter chuckles and responds that that is the reason everybody likes the dish.  I would be on the side of the waiter.  But I also go to the gym frequently, and have no problem running a few miles, and take vitamins daily, and drink 2L of water, and blah blah blah….these are the things that enable me to drink a mess of local brew, indulge in the food trends of the moment, rotate cheeses weekly, and of course, my wings.  So there’s my balance, a secret healthy life of the American Eater.  That should be a TV show.

We need to talk about addiction today.  Addiction to Coffee.  It’s not a problem but of course that’s what I’d say.  I probably drink less coffee than the average coffee drinker, maybe 2 cups a day, occasionally 3 if I’m out and in the area of a well known coffee shop but that’s it.  All the scary medical articles about how damaging coffee can be, or the reformed and now pious “I’ve switched to Tea” folks please step into a different group than myself, you have compulsion issues.  I guess 2 cups is ok and 20 is not, go figure.

Soul Satisfying

Soul Satisfying

Each morning when I wake up I make a pot of coffee in my french press, a method I prefer because it lacks the paper filter of a drip coffee maker which will steal some of the good coffee taste from your brew.  The French Press is also a very non tech way to really get one of the best cups of coffee and while other methods are effective, keeping it simple is nice too.  Hands down the best coffee I’ve had is from Blue Bottle, an obsessive coffee fanatic out of San Francisco, who small batch roasts very very often making sure his beans never touch plastic, blah blah…Blue Bottle rocks, when you have it you’ll get it, that’s not a debatable point, it’s a fact.  The Best. When I first started pressing my pots a few years ago, I followed what seems to be common sense and dumped my boiling water in my grounds, waited until my toast was done, and then slammed the stick home and out came coffee.  Sometimes I would get a good pot, sometimes a great pot…and every so often I would feel like I was doing something wrong.  I switched out to using whole beans and grinding them every morning which helped out a ton but I would still miss the mark every once and a while.

Sidamo

Sidamo

Being naive I blamed the beans.  After all this is San Diego not San Francisco right?  We don’t know what we’re missing up in the Bay, I figured.  I started to look into ordering beans from Blue Bottle and while checking out their different offerings stumbled up instructions to make a proper pot of french press coffee.  Amazing.   With a few very small tweaks my french press went from good to perfect every time.  I don’t have a burr grinder which would make it even better but I honestly doubt I’d need it.  I’m making some good shit.  I wanted to share the steps to doing a perfect french press, like most things the trick is really just Mise en Place.

Bloom!

Bloom!

Step 1) Assemble all the gear.  Whole Beans, Grinder, Pot, Measuring Cup, Chopstick, Tablespoon, Coffee Cup.  Set a timer for 3 minutes but don’t press start yet, just have it ready.

Step 2) A cup of coffee is 6-8oz. depending on the size of your cup.  Measure it by filling the cup up and pouring it into the measuring cup.  This will give you an idea of how much water to boil and how many beans to grind.  You need to have 3-4 Tablespoons per 8oz of water.  Whatever volume of water you’re going to use, double it and set that on the stove to boil.  I boil roughly 4 cups of water (32oz.). While the water heats measure the coffee into the grinder.  I’ve been doing 3 Tablespoons because I buy relatively expensive and my coffee is strong.  So 6 Tablespoons go in the grinder and are ground between medium and coarse until it resembles beach sand not powdered sugar.  You can tell your beans are ground too fine if the pot really jams when you’re pushing it down later, too coarse if there’s no resistance to it.  So grind the coffee and leave it in the grinder for now.

2nd stir

2nd stir

Step 3)  Water is at a raging boil, pour what you would eyeball to be half the water into the empty french press and return your kettle with the reaming water to the stove.  Swirl the hot water around letting it warm up the glass, coffee brews best at just shy of 200 degrees so this step is for heat retention.  Then pour the water from the french press into your coffee cup to warm it up.

Step 4) Pour the grounds from the grinder into the warm french press.  Pour whatever volume of boiling water you’ve measured out into a measuring cup, for me this is exactly 16oz.  The water will drop to pretty much 198 degrees by the time it goes from kettle to measuring cup.  Then carefully and slowly pour the hot water onto the grounds making sure to pour on all the dry portions.  You’re going to notice what’s called bloom, a light head not unlike what’s on espresso forming.  When all the water is in gentle stir 5-10 times with the chop stick and put the lid on depressing the plunger until it’s 1/2″ from the coffee.

Step 5) Actually time out 3 minutes.  That’s all it takes.  When you’re 3 minutes is up, remove the lid and gentle stir one last time to get all the flavor out of the grind, and then replace your lid and very gently begin to push the plunger down.  A good pot takes about 15 seconds to full depress.  If it goes down with 0 resistance, you need to grind finer, if you’re fighting it hardcore, less fine.  There you have it.  Pour the coffee out of the french pot right away as it’s going to continue to brew the longer it sits there.  I’d say 10 minutes max.

Side boob

Side boob

Easy enough.  If you live in San Diego we actually do have some very good coffee here.  Caffe Calabria of course roasts on site every day but I prefer Birdrock Coffee Roasters because they have some neat Single Origin coffee that isn’t dark roasted into flavor oblivion like Calabria tends to do.  I’m drinking an Ethiopian Sidamo coffee from BR that tastes exactly like a blueberry covered in a very very dark chocolate.  No sugar, just a tiny splash of half and half.  It’s good.

This actually happened last week but let’s pretend I just finished.  I don’t think anybody likes to bottle beer.  Breweries enlist help of fans and enthusiasts(or unlucky interns) on their bottling days, people develop intricate keg systems to avoid it, heck I think it’s about as unglamorous and labor intensive as it gets.  While making the beer you feel part mad scientist, part bootlegger, taking into your own hands a several thousand year old tradition forever changed by companies like Budweiser and Miller.  It’s exciting and requires a good bit of patience letting your yeast flocculate and do other kinds of fun fermentation specific verbs that could be confused with deadly disease specific verbs if you didn’t know any better (or wanted to spook a friend).  Yet 2 weeks after your own home brew first entered it’s primary fermentation bucket, the activity has stopped, the yeast has attenuated, and the beer is now alcoholic and flat.  It’s time to bottle.

Round 1

Round 1

I procured 4 empty 12 packs of Pacifico from our dog groomer Robin, who somehow managed to provide them to me in about 2 days notice.  On bottling day these went through the dishwasher two times, through a bucket of bleach water once, and then finally through the Iodophor to make sure that they were 100% clean and sterile.  It’s a bit daunting any time you’re handling home brew as it takes a lot of prep work and cleaning just to make sure the beer doesn’t end up funky or off tasting.  Imagine 3 weeks of waiting, shortcutting while bottling, and now the batch tastes like the way durian smells….that’s a nightmare.  So I was beyond anal making sure everything was clean and sterile, even running my siphon with sanitizer to get it started before draining the sanitizer, pinching the end and moving the whole set up to the bottling bucket.  A drop or two might have found it’s way in the beer but it’s better than tap water.

Round 2

Round 2

Dunk and soak in sanitizer

Dunk and soak in sanitizer

A note on siphoning:  Siphoning allows the transfer of beer from the fermenter, which now has a big cake of yeast and protein on the bottom, to the bottling bucket, without disturbing said yeast cake.  Carefully siphoning allows cleaner bottles that can be enjoyed without floating bits in them.  It’s a pain in the ass.  I highly recommend looking at this Youtube Video to really see how it’s supposed to be done.  I literally practiced for 45 minutes before the aha moment came and I had it down.

Ready to siphon

Ready to siphon

Once the beer is in the bottling bucket, the bottles are clean, the caps are clean….EVERYTHING is clean, I set up a little assembly station to try and be as efficient as possible.  The more I research and get into home brew the more I realize that part of the fun is setting up.  The differences between a hardcore home brewer and a commercial brewery are essentially size and yeast, not much else.  It took me maybe an hour to work my way through the bucket, Margaret would have helped had I Love Money 2 not been on but she was pretty interested in finding out more about whatever STD the contestants were spreading around that episode.  If VH1 ever drops that show it could easily be repackaged and shown to elementary school kids about why you want to not drop out of school.  Seriously, somebody quarantine the cast.

The Device

The Device

The bottles are capped one by one with the help of a winged bottle capper.  It’s pretty easy and once I was over the fear of an exploding bottle of beer launching glass shards and toxic juice all over myself I moved through them batch quickly.  The capper has a magnet in the center which makes placing the caps on the bottles easy and requires a bit of force to secure the cap.  The end result?  Well…a capped bottle, as expected.  Somehow capping the bottles, not making the beer, seemed like the most amazing part to most of my friends.  I guess they assumed we were going to hang out in my bathroom and sip moonshine out of the tub.  They’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Name TBD

Name TBD

Margaret is officially done with school today and her graduation is a week from Saturday.  I have 7 of her relatives coming to stay with us for a week starting on Wednesday.  In our apartment.  Which is a 2 bedroom.  Which is 1100 sq ft.  Including a baby.  They don’t believe in hotel rooms.  *Silence*

The beer will be finished Tuesday, the day before they come.  Thank god because if it’s bad I can pass it all off to them and drain through the batch quickly so I can start another one.  If it’s good on the other hand I have some assistance in dealing with no personal space and privacy for a week.

Beer names.  Margaret’s choice:  Gangster Bitch Batch 1, named in honor of the dog.  Zach’s choice: Endurance Ale or Sanity Keeper in hopes of alchemical properties imparted by drinking it.

I’m a very DIY cook.  Complicated processes fascinate me and I enjoy working my way through projects and seeing improvement as I go.  I’ve been baking bread weekly and experimenting with chilling (retarding) the dough at different points during the process trying to gauge how it affects the end result.  In a perfect world I’d have time to do the whole thing in one shot but that’s never the case.  Often the idea of a fresh chunk of bread with a wedge of cheese and a nice hoppy beer takes over, and being that the fridge is stocked full of good cheese and some nice hoppy beer…only one thing was missing.  I wanted to make something hearty and round, rustic.  The Bread Bible has a recipe for a basic hearth bread made with whole wheat which fit my bill perfectly.  We bought a great cheese called Beemster which is an aged gouda that has become very caramelly without taking on that soap taste that gouda can get.  It also has little crunchy crystals in it and is awesome with sharp hoppiness.

Beemster

Beemster

I swear I’m psychic sometimes as I put together a starter the night before with wheat and bread flour.  The next day it had tripled and looked ready for some action.  The dough is quickly mixed together and rested during a process called autolyse.  By allowing the flour in the dough to absorb the moisture before salt is added the overall time needed to knead is greatly reduced.  After autolyse the dough is mixed hard with salt and my dough hook just beats the shit out of it.  I really have to be careful during this as my KitchenAid could walk itself right off the counter.

Just mixed

Just mixed

Nice and tight to get the air in

Nice and tight to get the air in

One of the new methods I tried this time is called a turn.  The dough rises and is stretched and folded on itself to create air pockets and a more tender crumb.  Easy enough and seemed to work out for me.  I knew I would have to slash the dough before I baked it which I figured would be a disaster and it was.  My pseudo starfish is a good example of me making things too hard.  Next time I’ll just stick with a cross like the rest of the novice bakers on the planet.

shaped and rising, not a perfect boule but improving

shaped and rising, not a perfect boule but improving

The bread ended up delicious with a very crackly satisfying crust, a nice success indeed.  Tuesday I move on to bottling my beer which is going to be a post on itself with lots of update pictures.  Mary from Taste sent me a note that her Belgian Ale is bottled and ready to drink so I better hurry the heck up so we can swap and compare.  I’m expecting a disaster but a motivating one if anything.  Beer and bread making are good exercises in self control and patience.  Both take prep work, planning, notes, and a willingness to completely fuck up after hours of waiting unable to fix any mistakes  you’ve done.  While it can be hard at first seeing progress is super rewarding and enriching.

Bad slashing

Bad slashing

Finally I’ve been exposed to a few young business owners this week which I’ve taken as a sign of good things to come.  Margaret also has a potential job at El Dorado which seems like a very cool hipster hang out complete with cans of PBR and trilbies everywhere.  There Flikr has a lot of cool picture so let’s keep our fingers crossed it works out. Cheers

dsc03751

Farmhouse Cafe is one of the best restaurants in San Diego…for a lot of reasons that go beyond the food.  We sat at the bar talking with the owner, Rochelle, drinking Chimay, while she shows us a book the staff made her that chronicles the first year the restaurant opened.  Her  husband Oliver, the chef, watches the dining room from the kitchen and every 10 minutes or so comes out and talks to different tables.  He says hi to everybody in the restaurant and genuinely means it.  Every action exudes caring, there’s no pomp or show, Oliver and Rochelle mean what they say.  The restaurant is completely full from the time we get there to the time we leave, all the diners are happy…even the staff is happy.  We eat and I tell Rochelle that we’re moving to LA so that I can go to cooking school, she’s excited by this.  We go back into the kitchen and talk with Oliver during a brief calm spell, he encourages me to come work a shift at the restaurant so that he can “talk me out of it.”  I’m grinning ear to ear I’m sure.  This is going to be a photo review mostly.  The food here is soaked with love, you can see it if you look closely enough.  Dining here is like eating with a big family, most of the tables know each other some how, servers call guests by their first names…even at other servers tables.  Find a way to eat here, just keep it quiet afterwards.

Happy t(w)oo

Happy t(w)oo

Charcuterie Plate.  Pork Rillete, Speck, Coppa, Knight Salumis, Cornichons

Charcuterie Plate. Pork Rillete, Speck, Coppa, Knight Salumis, Cornichons

FHC Burger

FHC Burger

Lamb Bolognese with Lemon Confit and House-Made Fettucini

Lamb Bolognese with Lemon Confit and House-Made Fettucini

Dark Chocolate Cake with Mango Sorbet, Mint Oil

Dark Chocolate Cake with Mango Sorbet, Mint Oil

Good sign, right?

Good sign, right?

Feeling Lovey

Feeling Lovey

I’ve been very interested in the craft of home brewing lately and decided to give it a few tries and see what happens.  I picked up a  starter kit from Home Brew Mart, spent some time reading about the process on the Internet and drank for practice.  I felt pretty confident, cocky almost, about how good this beer was going to be.  I read all the pitfalls to watch for, the little techniques that separated a good beer from a very good beer and created a subtle plan to stick to the basics but go the extra mile when possible….well, we gave it a shot.

Dry Malt Extract

Dry Malt Extract

The story starts with me purchasing an aluminum 32 quart stock pot from Chef City, I found out later that most brewers vehemently discourage brewing in aluminum cookware.  Ever the optimist I boiled about 4 gallons of water which proceeded to strip the inside of my pot and leave a perfectly defined divide of aluminum above the water line and copper penny color underneath. Ew.  There was also an omnipresent black residue that found its way onto every paper towel I touched to any surface on the pot.  Simply, it had to go…fast.  24 hours, several threats, some hard negotiating, and a 22oz Sculpin later, I was the proud new owner of a 16 quart stainless steel stock pot, a much better, though smaller, brew pot.

First Addition of DME

First Addition of DME

I used the basic recipe from Home Brew Mart for a West Coast Pale Ale:

3 lbs Pale Malt Extract

3 lbs Amber Malt Extract

2oz Amarillo Hops (1.5oz for 60 min, .5 at knockout)

Mise en Place

Mise en Place

Seemed simple enough with just 3 ingredients and while I knew that without some specialty grains and more hops it wouldn’t really be more than a first attempt, brewing is a learning process at first just like cooking.  While the wort (bubbling brew) was boiling I sanitized everything for the eventual transfer to the fermenter.  Everything looking ok. I practiced siphoning water from one bowl to another with very limited success.  It’s a hard and awkward move and I can see why inventing in an autosiphon can prove invaluable.  At least I feel confident that with some tubing and a bottle of water I could steal a tank of gas in a pinch….#useless life skills.  My practice was interrupted when I smelled burning sugar which was the inevitable boil-over I’d been warned to watch for 100x.  While cleaning said boilover, there was a 2nd boilover (also warned against), which set off a string of cussing that lasted for about 15 minutes.

Fuck you boilover

Fuck you boilover

I cleaned the stove as best I could and just watched the wort carefully for the last 10 minutes before transferring my pot to the sink and immersing it in an ice bath to cool the almost beer down.  Of course I didn’t buy a bag of ice so the super hot 3 gallons of liquid in a stainless steel pot melted the ice almost immediately.  After that it was near impossible to get the beer cool enough.  It was recommended that I take it to about 60F before doing anything, we made it to about 85F and had to transfer…it’d been a while.  My siphoning still needs work and I couldn’t for the life of me get a good suction so I ended up just pouring the beer carefully into my bucket where it was aerated and yeastificated.  The OG of my beer is 1.049 which is going to end up being about a 5.2% beer, pretty mellow.

Melting my ice

Melting my ice

It’s been about 3 days now since our brewday and the fermenter is still slowly bubbling away.  In another 5 days or so I’m going to siphon the beer to a second container to settle for about 2 weeks before I proceed to bottling.

Pre-Siphon Fail

Pre-Siphon Fail

Some Mistakes I Made That I Knew Better On:

1) Watch the wort towards the end for boilover

2)Buy a bag of ice to cool the beer down as fast as possible

3)Don’t get impatient and pitch your yeast at 85F, wait until 60F

4)Buy an autosiphon

Gurgle

Gurgle

Just a quick note.  This Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, I’m off on my own with plenty of time to explore and experiment.  So far the plan is to go to Farm House Cafe on Sunday night, the farmer’s market in the morning, and brew the first homebrew batch in between.  I think Monday and Tuesday should be dedicated to some kind of tasty bread to enjoy with the chicken I will roast from the market.  Days off like this are going to be more and more important as we get further into summer as our move date got pushed back and both of us are pretty unhappy about that.

Oh well, we’ve made a list of things to do in San Diego before we leave which hopefully we can work through.

Item 1) Coronado trip

Cheers

*Side Note*

I started making the Baozi dough for my Char Sui Bao and forgot it overnight in the mixer….then subsequently ate all the pork…next time I guess.

Last night we went out to see Observe and Report also known as “Mall Cop 2″.  It was bad, real bad.  About half way through the movie I started to get that tingle that urges me to start mixing, measuring, baking, and ultimately dish doing.  I’ve been trying to fit baguettes into my schedule but the timing is weird and I rarely have 3 hours free to allow the starters to work before retarding.  I’ll get to it soon hopefully.  I decided to take another shot and Char Sui Bao which I made several months ago with moderate success.  I still have no interest of adding Pau flour (ultra bleached cake flour) to my pantry so I doubt my Baozi will ever be as fluffy as they could be but unbleached flour just sounds gross to me, it seems too processed for human consumption.  I looked at my recipe from last time and made a few small corrections.  The first go around was a straight dough, meaning no sponge or starter was needed in the formula, the bao was dense ultimately and had a skin that I didn’t want it to have.  The filling was delicious which is a good thing but I made notes last time that basically said, “more sweet, more fluffy, better pleats.”  This time I’m starting with a wet sponge that I’ve let ferment in the fridge overnight.  I’m hoping the fridge time has slowed the process down enough to allow flavor to develop.  I’ve also read that adding baking powder to the dough in two stages will help it puff and stay lighter so when I get to mixing the dough I’ll be incorporating that too.  Finally, I really have to make a good effort at pleating these buns correctly.  Amazingly, when I was googling dough recipes and people had posted the cross sections of their buns there is a huge difference beween correctly pleated buns (filling intact in center) and lumpy pinched off buns (filling spread throughout bread).  The technique looks easy but was very difficult for me last time around.  The dough is going to be ready later tonight so I’ll drop a few pictures of the awful attempts (probably many) vs. the successful ones (should be at least one).

Meanwhile I’ve given quite a dive into the world of beer, sampling a lot of new beers from very successful craft operations.  I’m fully aware that a lot of the really fantastic special beers are not bottled for sale and therefor only available at a place like O’Briens or at the brewery.  The next step in the adventure is to buy a growler, a one gallon jug, for filling at local brew spots, but that’s a whole nother notch on a belt I’m not sure I want to wear yet.  A gallon?  It’s cost effective but that also means I have to drink the whole gallon, and also have Margaret watch its progression from full to empty.  This next statement I realize completely contradicts what I just said, I’m going to be making my first batch of homebrew on Thursday.  I bought a 30Q kettle earlier in the week and it’s just a matter of getting the kit from Home Brew Mart and throughouly sanitizing and prepping my guest bathroom for it’s month long guest of fermenting sludge.  Wait…ew…I mean I’m going to store my fermenting bucket there, not the other thing…

The Beer!

Green Flash Barley Wine

Green Flash Barley Wine

Delicious, Barley wine is a high gravity beer, meaning there is a lot of grain and time involved in achieving the body and balance of such a big beer.  It pours a dark amber color and was deliciously sweet and hoppy without being either of each.  At the 11% ABV, it’ll also get you very drunk very fast.  Other standout examples are Stone Old Guardian.

Black Lager

Black Lager

A lager is a style of beer that likes to ferment at very cold temperatures.  They’re usually lighter in body than an ale unless of course you live in San Diego and everything is a hardcore hopstrocity of deliciousness.  Pizza Port is a top notch brew op and the beers I get from there are always awesome.  I’m assuming the black lager is black because of the addition of black patent malt and something else roasty.  Despite the color the beer is very light tasting with hints of coffee and hopes.  I could probably drink 2 or 3 of these bombers and be about as sensible as if I drank the barleywine.  Alchohol was around 6%

Alesmith X

Alesmith X

The fun part about sampling so many beers is that you never know exactly what you’re going to get.  As with the black lager that looks heavy like Guiness but tastes completely different, sometimes these light beers can sucker punch you unexpectedly.  Alesmith X pours really nice and smells sweet.  It has a mildly belgian-esque flavor to it’s malt profile.  That would mean it’s slightly sweet with citrus notes underneath it but with body so that it doesn’t taste crispy or overly carbonated.  This would be a great transition beer if you like lighter styles and aren’t yet acclimated to how bitter SD beers can get.

Belgian IPA

Belgian IPA

Stone rocks, but you knew that…everybody knows that.  I don’t think that Stone has anything that I don’t like.  The Vanilla Smoked Porter I had out of the cask at the Linkery was a major eye opener into pairing beer with food.  Just to make sure we’re all on the same page, and IPA is a beer that is generally bitter because of all the hops added, aside from bitterness hops give nice floral and citrus notes which is a good contract to a medium bodied ale.  Kind of like a jalapeno aioli on a burger, it’s the zing.  Cali-Belgique is classic Stone IPA brewed with a Belgian yeast strain which bring all the fruit and sweetness out of the malt so instead of a slightly toasty caramel you have more of a warm apple going on.  Make sense?  Drink this and it will.

Double Red

Double Red

Shark Attack is serious shit.  Seriously good but this is not for the non beer drinker.  It’s a hopped up on steroids version of Sharkbite, the signature red from Port Brewing.  Different malts are roasted to different colors measured on the Lovibond scale.  A red ale is usually made with a Crystal Malt that is dark enough on the Lovibond scale to import a caramel flavor without too much of a roasted taste.  Shark Attack is a Double IPA (SD Special) made with the same Dark Crystal Malt.  Double IPAs are really bitter and have very high alcohol but are some of the most complex beers around.  They’re an acquired taste but if you live in San Diego you’ve probably acquired the taste.  The Maltyness of red smooths it out the crazy pounds of hops,though I bet it took forever to condition this beer.  I imagine it tasted kind of like alcoholic IV drip for a month before finally mellowing out into this really tasty 9.6% taste fest.

So if you haven’t been able to tell I like strong full flavored beers.  Hops are so complex tasting they interest me the same way that coffee does.  I guess my palette is just geared toward bitter tastes.  I hope this inspires a few people to branch out and try some of the great beers we have in this area.

Next step, homebrew!

So I feel really disconnected from my blog which is interesting because I didn’t realize how important updating this page regularly was.  It’s hard, guilty almost, like when you don’t go to the gym but know that you should.  I feel like that.  The main reason for my absence is that work has been cr-a-a-a-a-zy for me, and seemingly me alone, the past two weeks.  I’ve had a combination of people with awful credit (requires much internal paperwork babysitting), and a steady uptick in volume.  This is good and I’m not going to complain for obvious reasons but I wish there was a better balance, read that as “I wish there was more time to eat and drink as well as spend time with Margaret (not in that order).”  As we gear up for the move a lot of my attention is focused on that also.  I’ve been up to LA every single week, which is so exhausting.  We’ve eaten some good meals at Mario’s Peruvian, Vito’s Pizza, Golden State Cafe, and Kings Road Cafe, which I have pictures for but is kind of low on the posting totem pole.  If you’ve never gone through long distance moving before, it’s really fucking hard to organize straight packing up and relocating to a different city while in the midst of a career change.  Somehow I’m not worried about it, the overall success of the move I mean, but rather kind of strangely confident.  It’s not cockiness by any means but rather what I feel is a deserved reward for parting with 3.5 years of draining soul searching.  Now that I’ve found the route I want to pursue it seems only natural that I’ll walk that path.  After all, I found success selling cars and who knows how that actually happened…really.  If you knew me at 19….really, wow.

Bun Ga

Bun Ga

Ah, my blog, like a fleece NY Mets blanket, comfy.  In the world of food I’ve been fairly busy, cooking a lot and using the kitchen as an outlet to bury a lot of my frustrations.  I’m still edgy about posting recipes on this website, it’s half irrational but at the same time cooking is about tasting and improvising not following a formula.  It’s like music, the musicians can’t just play, they have to listen to each other to.  On the other hand, I made the most banging Bun Ga last night and I’m tempted to post a recipe because I’m proud of how it came out.  I also followed that up with a ferocious salmon dish that had a beautfiul red Achiote sauce and sat perched on a cucumber/avocado salad with cilantro dressing…equally banging and the salmon was cooked to a flawless medium-rare.  God I even made rosemary parker house rolls and didn’t have time to share them with the entire world, I feel like an awful blogger/friend.  They ended up addictive and buttery and I had several bathroom pep talks with myself along the lines of, “just one more and you can stop, it’s cool man, last one.”

Achiote is beautifully red

Achiote is beautifully red

This weekend I have a 4 lb pork butt to dismantle which is going to turn into 3 things.  Bahn Mi Thit, which I think means grilled pork bahn mi, so hopefully I can get around to baking baguettes.  Shredded pork enchiladas in a chili colorado style sauce.  Last but not least, Char Sui Bao round fuckin 2.  This time I will master pleating and dominate the Sui, jew style.

Oh, and most fun of all I’ve been trying a lot of great local brews as well as completing the prep stages to brew my first batch next week!

Green Flash Barley Wine

Green Flash Barley Wine

Feels good to be back.

San Diego is widely considered, and I’ll be on this bandwagon also, one of the best craft beer cities in the country.  Really, you may ask?  Yes!  I had no idea that we were on the map for any culinary endeavours but it is true, there is even an established beer style nicknamed San Diego IPA, which in San Diego is just considered a plain old IPA.  This makes me smile endlessly, imagine living in Buffalo and to you Buffalo Wings are just Chicken Wings.  In France they don’t eat French fries, because it’s motherfucking France already!  Ok, so obviously I’m excited because I’m in a city that can claim some raised eyebrows and longing sighs from people who like to drink craft beer, and I’m a secret enjoyer of bragging.

San Diego, and the immediate surrounding areas up to Oceanside, are home to several world class breweries, who all have a working and friendly relationship not just with each other but also with the greater Beer Community, and also Local Purveyors.  That leads to interesting collaborations such as the Caffe Calabria Coffee Porter Ale that recently was launched.  Fun Stuff.

I try to pick up two new bottles to sample everytime I’m out so while this isn’t going to be the Beer Down, it’s a-coming, about 10 strong.  Stay thirsty!

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