Sunday, January 31, 2010

Orval Trappist Ale...Brewed by Monks, Enough Said

There are 171 Trappist monastaries around the world and of those only seven brew beer.  Six of them are in Belgium and one of them is in the Netherlands. Probably the most recognizable bottle is Chimay. Most of them are not regularly available except at a specialty store and one of them is brewed in such small quantities (Westvleteren) that it is rarely seen outside of Europe. They even have a "beerphone" for customers to make a limited order of one case per month.

Orval is a relatively easy to come by however and I was really excited to try this one because the vaunted Michael Jackson, (not the king of pop) king of all things beer, raved about this beer and several well known craft brewers consider it one of their favorites. I have had this one on my radar for a bit so when I went over to the Haven to meet my MIA bro and my best friend, now neighbor, from college I knew exactly what my first beer was going to be.

The bottle is a cool kind of tear drop shape and it pours a beautiful clear orange brown with not that much head. The aroma has a bit of hops and some spice but overall not that remarkable. That "unremarkable" thing plays out through the entire drinking experience. I never got the nuanced flavors that people raved about. I got a little bit of hops spiciness, a little alcohol taste and beyond that not a whole lot. Don't get me wrong it wasn't BAD, just not as good as I was expecting. Maybe a product of over hyping? Don't get me wrong if someone offered me one I would drink it happily but I don't see what all the fuss is about. I've had other trappist beers that were better.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

La Chouffe... It Has a Gnome, How Cool is That?

Hands down one of my all time favorite beers. Though it sports a gnome on its label this beer clocks in at 8% ABV so it's not a light drinker. That little gnome can come back to bite you in the ass if you have a few too many of these, and it's easy to do. This beer is just smooth. Perfectly balanced malt and hops, lending more towards the malty side but not too sweet that it becomes cloying. There's some citrus hiding in the slightly cloudy golden pour as well as a bit of peach mingling with that yeast haze. This is a great beer to introduce novice beer drinkers to Belgian style and slightly higher alcohol. I gave my brother, normally a Miller Light guy, one of these and he was in heaven. I find myself coming back to this one even when there are untried beers at my local pub. It's that good

Friday, January 29, 2010

Wedding in Maui...Jealous? You Will Be

Anyone who knows D and I know that if we were to cheap out anything on our wedding it most definitely would NOT be the food or the wine. SOME of this food will show up at our wedding, SOME of it won't. These pictures do no justice to what our amazing caterer will be creating for our lucky guests. All I can say is, ono, and oishii.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

1554 Enlightened Black Ale

I had this one for the first time with my good German friend. OK well he's not GERMAN, well maybe he is somewhere along the line but he does LIVE in Germany right now. And he better come back SOON!!! Are you listening out there! Soon! We miss you both terribly. Anyway I had this one on one of our Craft Beer Man Nights.
Not "Craft Beer Man" like Superman but, Craft Beer(comma and pause) Man Nights. Ladies drink champagne and puffy paint, we men drink beer and well, drink beer, and maybe there's a game on. Basically Craft Beer(wait for it)Man Night entails going to a store that has a decent selection of beer beyond things with, "Light" and "Lite" attached to them and purchasing bottles that look interesting and then drinking them. MUCH easier than puffy painting. Plus, you DO NOT want to see my art skills. And if you do see my art skills they are probably BETTER after Craft Beer(Hold)Man Night and a few beers.

OK Beer, right, this one is from New Belgium in the Rockies, yes the sell out brewery that brought us Fat Tire that to me now tastes more like Flat Tire(Lame, I know). We used to have a fraternity brother from Colorado bring it to us back when you could only get it direct from the state and it was SOOO much better. It just tastes watered down now. I was pleasantly surprised by 1554 though. Dark chocolate brown color with a light tan head. Chocolate and coffee on the nose. A bit of hops but not much the malty sweetness definitely dominates but not overwhelmingly so. It's well balanced. This tastes like a light bodied porter. Roasted malt, no burnt flavors. A little bready, yeasty action. All in all a good beer that if forced to drink a lot of, I would not complain. At 5.5% abv I COULD drink a lot of it. Only problem is it seems to be a bit hard to find. I see it at Bevmo every once in a while and at Whole Paycheck as well. Pick up a 6 if you see it, you won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

What's next for Foie? Tacos? Ice Cream Sandwiches? Done and Done

Grub Street Los Angeles has been doing a feature called The Food Chain where chefs nominate a favorite dish they have eaten recently and then the chef that created the dish nominates a dish that he has enjoyed recently and the "chain" continues. Newly crowned iron chef Jose Garces was the most recent chef to nominate a dish, Foie gras loco moco. This dish was created at Animal in Los Angeles. The chef there described his dish thusly, "just a dirty-ass teriyaki bowl with sweet and garlicky flavor."

The dish is basically a quail egg on top of foie gras, on top of pan fried spam, which is sitting on a burger patty, which is sitting on "special" rice, and the whole thing is drizzled with Sriracha(cock sauce), maple syrup, and terriyaki.

Really? Fois loco moco?
That's like making Grade A5 Wagyu Corned Beef Hash,
or possibly Foie gras tacos

Heck there have even been foie gras ice cream sandwiches made!

My question to you is: If you could use a "high end ingredient" to make a "low end dish" what would you make?

In honor of Superbowl I'm going with a 7 Layer dip of:
A5 Wagyu Beef (240$ per pound) Braised in Macallan Fine Rare Vintage Scotch ($38,000 per bottle)
Birds nest (US$5,000 per pound)

Foie gras (100$ per pound)
Beluga caviar ($2500 per pound in the United States)
Crispy shoe string fries of La Bonnotte potatoes (350$ per pound)
White Truffle ($2700 per pound)
Topped with edible gold leaf (46$ for 25 sheats)
Total:  $49,936 + Chips (expensive ones)
Grand Total: $50,000 World's Most Expensive 7 Layer Dip

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Maui Brewing Coconut Porter

This beer holds a special place in my heart as it is one of the beers that will be served at D and I's wedding at Haiku Mills in Maui. I cannot wait for July 15th when I can call her my wife. I'm going to go all mushy here so skip the next 3 lines if you don't want to be bowled over by my sentiments.

D is the best thing that ever happened to me and I credit her to opening my eyes to the culinary world that I have come to love and appreciate in ways I never thought possible for reasons only few know. Ok I'm done.

On to the beer! Oh the beer, lovely lovely beer. Have you ever been dissappointed by advertising and marketing claims?

The Flowbee?
 Perhaps The Fishpen?

Unlike this beer they promise things that they don't deliver. This is called a Coconut Porter because it actually does have a coconut taste to it. Shocking right? Double Chocolate Stout? MMMmm sounds so good, not much chocolate there. Cappuchino Stout? Again, MMMmm, barely a buzz. But Maui Brewing delivers with this one. A not too sweet or cloying aftertaste of clean coconut. Not much carbonation and a dark chocolate brown topped with a tan head. The body is light and silky for a stout and even non-stout lovers should like this one, as long as they like coconut. It comes in a 4 pack of cans and the only thing I can think of that's wrong with it is that the fist holding the coconut? For some reason I always envision a beating heart in his hand for some reason. Morbid I know but glance at the picture and see if you see what I see. Enjoy!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Duchesse De Bourgogne a Flanders Red Ale

I have never had a flemish sour red before so I knew that this one could be a VERY different beer experience for me. I picked this one up because it was in the book, Michael Jackson's Great Beer Guide: 500 Classic Brews that D got me for Christmas. It's a really cool book if not just for the pictures. There is a different beer on each page with a picture of both the bottle and the beer in its customary glass. There is a lot of good tasting notes on each one. I went through and tagged all the ones that seemed interesting. I now have a LOT of neon green tags in this book. My goal is to eventually make it through all of them.

Enter, Duchesse De Bourgogne. This bear is made by Brouwerij Verhaeghe in Vichte, Belgium and comes in a cute little(yes cute) 11.7 oz bottle with a creepy woman holding a bird on her finger on the label. The woman is supposed to be Mary Burgundy some really old Belgian king's daughter who died young.
The beer itself is a blend of 8 and 18 month old beer that has been matured in oak casks very much like a classic lambic that is a blend of gueuze(sour) ale.

The beer is a really pretty(yes I said pretty) copper color with a creamy tan head that leaves nice lace on the side. Smelling the beer I could tell it was going to be fruity and sour. I could definitely smell the oak, some chocolate, and a porty raisiny aroma. The first taste knocked me off my game. I have never tasted a beer where I just DIDN'T want to finish it. Miller Light, Coors Light, yes they all taste like peepee but it's not like they taste BAD. Now I know that didn't makes sense but you get the idea. I was not sure I wanted to go on with this one. The best way I can describe this is flat Cherry Coke that has been aged in a brandy barrel. Does that sound yummy to you? Me either. I actually let it sit on the table while I watched the game with the Lawyer and contemplated whether I was really going to give up. I got a glass because I ALMOST switched to Cognac and then I manned up and took another sip. It was warm...warm, oaked, Cherry Coke. It was better, Warm, Oaked, Cherry Coke is better than slightly chilled, oaked Cherry Coke. I rejoiced, slowly finished it (it wasn't even 12 oz!) and swore that I will never drink that beer again. Ever. Ever.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

What's YOUR wine score? Mine's better! DUMB

I've always said that wine is subjective but there are some QUALITY differences. There is no way that I can't pick out our 2$ wine from Fresh and Easy if it was put up against say a more quality wine from our favorite Rhone Valley varietal winery Zaca Mesa. Now the Syrah from Zaca Mesa is not a first growth Chateauneuf du Pape that can go for 600$ in a vintage as recent as 2005. The ZM cost D and I 30-40$ with our cellar club discount but there are many differences in depth of flavor, aroma, length, and cellar longevity. No it has nothing to do with the fact that the "Big Kahuna 2$" is a screw cap and the ZM is corked. There is probably just no way that if D and I decided to enjoy a fine 2000 vintage Big Kahuna that it's going to taste like much more than vinegar and alcohol. Whereas the Rhone is known to age for decades wonderfully.

So, in conclusion you don't need to spend any more than 2$ to enjoy a wine. You might have to taste around for one that YOU like but they are out there. You don't even have to spend 30-40$ because we sure don't most of the time. I've never tasted a first growth Chateauneuf du Pape and I definitely would never spend 700$ on a bottle. If I was given a bottle or a free glass I sure as hell would savor it and brag to everyone I know. Just kidding. Sorta. Or if I suddenly came into millions of dollars from a rich uncle that I don't know about dying and leaving it all to me I MIGHT buy one. Who am I kidding I would buy D a new car, us a new house, me a new bike (or 2...ok 3) and a LOT of other things before I would ever spend that much on wine.

So if like this guy below you can tell the difference between a spoiled wine, a BAD wine, a 2$ wine, a GOOD wine, and a great wine you are 1 step from being a wine writer.

Anyone else think scoring wines is stupid? Put your hands up you know you do! How the hell can you RATE a wine? What makes one 92 points another 89? Here's a quote that sums up my thoughts on wine and whether or not it's "good." It comes from a wine blogger and writer at

"I figure I can break wine down into a few general categories.
  • A flawed wine - a wine that has something clearly wrong with it
  • a bad wine – a wine that isn’t technically spoiled (or flawed) but it is just plain bad
  • a decent wine – this could be a wine that is OK, drinkable, but really nothing to write home about
  • a good wine – this is a wine that is enjoyable and while not mind blowing, if priced right (under $20) can be real pleasurable
  • a great wine – this is a wine wherein all the parts have come together and the stuff inside this bottle is just damn good. 
FIVE, count them, 5 different levels for grading wine.  That is it.  No cockamamie 100 point scale (that generally starts at 50 anyway).  No 89 point wines being inferior to a 90 point wine.  Just flawed, bad, decent, good & GREAT.  And mind you, one man’s (or woman’s) great wine CAN be another’s decent wine & visa versa.  What is better…a rare steak or a well done one?  I know my preference (bloody rare) but who is to say which is better & which is worse?  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder."

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Date Night at Geisha House...I'm More Asian Than This Place

D and I really try to have one date night a week where we go out and we don't cook. We have a drink, some food, and we always have really great conversations. Even though she can't do it I could go to a (insert National Coffee Chain Brand Name Here) order a venti, errr Large cup of coffee, sit in a comfy chair and talk for hours. Not to go all mushy but she's my other half, good thing because I'm marrying her right?

ANYway. Friday night we had planned on making this really great vegetable soup and staying in but I could tell that neither one of us was up for cooking. Shocking I know right? Part of D's Christmas gift this year was a bunch of gift certificates to different places. The idea was that we could try out different food on date nights for cheaper. We're saving for a wedding here. If you have never used the site it is awesome. I bought 25$ gift certificates for 2$. There are some restrictions but hey, it's free money. So Friday night wasn't allowed on any of the cards except for PJ's Abbey and Geisha House. We both decided on a little more healthy and Geisha House since it is basically right down the street. Weird right? Large chic Japanese restaurant with its roots in Hollywood home of small portions and big prices decides to open a place in a Santa Ana shopping mall home of small tacos and big burritos. It will all make sense in a second. Ok here's the secret about Geisha House's location.

I... of the white, German, Scottish, blonde, blue eyed ancestry... am more Asian than this place will ever be. It makes sense that the only person in here that greeted us in Japanese, was Mexican. D IS Asian and  one of my more constant refrains is, "I should have been born Asian." (To which D replies, "I don't date Asians,") so it goes without saying that we have a pretty good idea of what good Asian food tastes like. This was not it.

I might go so far as to say my favorite "American Chinese Food" place called Golden Dragon complete with warming trays of unidentified meat with familiar names like General Tso, is more Asian than this place. Not that the food was awful it just didn't taste like it should anything. Seasoning was woeful.

"Spicy tuna tartare on crispy rice cracker" should have read,

"Crispy on the outside, mushy on the inside(sounds like a bad rap song anybody know the one?) rice bun topped with spicy in one area only, pretty much tasteless everywhere else, tuna pate and tobiko for color."

The sushi rolls they offered sounded very interesting and I was excited by the "geisha's lips" hey now, don't get all dirty on me here. It was supposed to be crab, spicy tuna, avocado, sprouts, wrapped in a cucumber skin. Sounds nice and light right? Basically the chef's knife skills were non existent because the cucumber skin was about 1/2 an inch thick. Far be it from me to criticize a "sushi chef's" knife skills but I'm sure I could have cut a thinner skin with a rusty railroad tie. He did make up for it though by cramming a lot of stuff into that "skin." It was just too bad it was undernon-seasoned crab salad, a hacked off piece of tuna, and I think there might have been some avocado in one or two of the pieces. Don't get me wrong it didn't taste bad but there really isn't any way something can taste bad if it has no taste.

The one bright spot of the night foodwise? I got D to try some salmon and she liked it! She is particular about her fish so I have to make sure I introduce her to things when I know for sure she will like them. The salmon was not fishy (again with the non-taste, taste and this place) and cooked well.

Our bill was large, our taste, small. Needless to say I would rather wait for an hour outside a nondescript Fountain Valley Ramen place with my name on a piece of notebook paper waiting for somebody to mispronounce my name to call our table and look at me funny because I am white than go back to Geisha House.

Friday, January 22, 2010

I Tried to Kill My Fiancee (Flaming Hot Albondigas)

I swear I was not trying to collect on life insurance last night.

I told D that since I had MLK day off I would cook her anything she wanted to make up for the fact that she had to go to work, but she had to choose a new recipe. I was surprised when she chose a very healthy soup from Bon Apetit magazine. I mean, mini-meatballs with shredded zucchini and roasted poblano peppers in a beef broth with onions and more shredded zucchini? Mmm...that was right up my alley.

I roasted the poblano in the oven at 400 degrees for 45 minutes turning every 15 until it looked like a deflated balloon. The aroma was enough to reach my perma(thanks to my students)nantly clogged nose...mmmm, again. Roughly chopped it was added to ground turkey, along with shredded zucchini, grated onion, garlic, and Panko bread crumbs. I rolled them up into 1 inch balls of goodness. Mind out of the gutter please. They looked good enough to eat raw, so I did. Kidding kidding. Next up the broth. This is where it all went wrong. I halved the recipe to begin with so of course I halved the spices in the broth too. Maybe I should have reduced them by about 95% because my nose was running while the broth was simmering across the kitchen. The recipe called for dried poblano pepper but I couldn't find that. I figured regular chile pepper would be a decent substitute. Apparently poblano pepper powder is powder for sissies because adding the same amount of chile powder to the broth created a flaming hot cauldron of taste bud destruction.

Now, anyone who knows me well knows that I can tolerate heat, both temperature and spiciness. I'm the guy that asks for the 4-alarm, skull and crossbones, wings of death and then asks for hotsauce. D on the other hand, not so much. I think if it was physically possible she would have melted my face with her firebreath. She was not happy and was definitely in some physical pain, which pained me, cause it was my fault. The really sad thing is that we could tell that aside from the nuclear burn, the soup tasted GOOD. The meat was tender, the broth had good flavor(until it killed you), and I wanted to like it. We even tried diluting it. I added TWICE the broth and it made it bearable for me but D was not even willing to go near it for fear of flashbacks.

Moral of the story as given to me by D and asked to all of the contestants of Top Chef whenever their food sucked? Did you taste your food while you were cooking? The answer? No, so it's better to add spice later because you definitely can't take it away. It's a good thing tastebuds are not like brain cells or else we both would be a bit dumber.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Saison Dupont Belgian Bottle Conditioned Ale

Saison Dupont was named Best Beer in the World in 2005 by Men's Journal but its beginnings were much more humble. "Farmhouse Ale" is printed on the label and that is literally what this beer is. A belgian beer, saison, means season, was traditionally brewed for the summer to refresh workers at local farms. Since each individual farmer brewed his own batch this meant that the yeast that was used was specific to that specific farm locale. Saison Dupont uses a secondary fermentation in the bottle and has a champagne style cork that is not only fun to open but serves a purpose since there is a LOT of carbonation in the bottle. The beer pours a cloudy yellow due to the leftover yeast that add a bit of creamy mouthfeel and has a citrusy lemon taste to it that is very refreshing. Lightly hopped it has a nice balance with just a tinge of bitterness. One wiff of this beer and you can know it uses a wild strain of yeast as it has a slightly funky, horse blanket smell to it. This is definitely a nice beer to pair with spicy foods as the acidity is quite high. D and I shared one with our corn beef hash and horseradish cream sauce. D loves this beer and it definitely is a session option as it is only 6.5% ABV. An easy drinker into the night.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Unibroue Trois Pistoles

Let me start off by saying I love this beer. This Belgian strong ale has a flavor profile that seems to harken back to its label. Dark and mysterious there is a lot going on with this brew. Bottle fermented there are still some little yeasties floating around after a rough pour which lend a creamy character to the body. Nicely carbonated this brew has a malty, caramely, taste with hints of port and chocolate brownie on the backend. It would go great with beef or a chocolate dessert of some kind. I know it sounds sweet but this beer is anything but. At 9% ABV it could end up making you feel like the "devil horse" on the label kicked you in the head if you down more than one of the 22 oz bottles that I had. I wish I was less of a light weight so I could have had another and still drove home.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Japanese Curry with Crispy Tofu

D and I try and plan our meals out for the week so that we don't hit a restaurant just because we don't have anything else to eat, but just like everyone else we have those days when we don't want to think about cooking and it would be much easier to just throw in the towel, jump in the car, and find the nearest drive-thru.

           Although if  pictures like this don't stop you from throwing your health away I don't know what will.

 The Double Coronary Burger
five slices of bacon, four slices of cheese, two fried eggs, mayo, lettuce, tomato, and onion between two grilled cheese sandwiches

Sometimes those days are unexpected, others you just know you are going to feel that way by the end of the work day. That's why we have a few easy go to meals that we can throw together quickly.

One of those is Japanese Curry with Crispy Tofu. Very Simple.

1. Curry Mix

2. Vegetables

3. Tofu

4. Panko

5. Egg

6. Cooked Rice (We ALWAYS have frozen rice balls to microwave up)

Step 1. Read curry package
Step 2. Follow Directions
Step 3. Leave on low simmer
Step 4. Cut tofu 1 inch thick by 3 inches Square
Step 5. Coat tofu in egg white
Step 6. Coat eggy (yes that's a word) tofu in panko
Step 7. Heat enough oil in pan to just cover the metal (I'm healthy no deep frying here)
Step 8. Pan fry tofu until crispy on both sides
Step 9. Add chopped vegetables to curry We have zucchini, onion, and sometimes potatoes. Be creative.
Step 10. Heat up rice in microwave
Step 11. Add rice to bowl
Step 12. Pour curry over rice
Step 13. Add crispy tofu on top
Step 14. Take picture. Ok, that one was just so I didn't end on step 13, superstitious


Monday, January 18, 2010

Green Flash Brewing West Coast IPA

Maybe my judgement was a bit skewed after downing a
Unibroue Trois Pistoles(Review to come) but I asked the server at The Haven in Orange for an IPA recommendation. Bad Move. I don't know what it is but I never have a good experience when I ask someone else to make choices for me. Point in case, this nuclear hop bomb laying waste to anything in its path, namely, my palate. It poured beautiful but I could hear my tastebuds screaming for mercy after the second sip. The only reason it wasn't the first sip is I think they were struck deaf, dumb, and blind with the first wave of unbalanced bitterness. If taste buds could wave white flags my little guys were frantically showing the international sign for conceding defeat. I love IPA and I love hops but this one was bitter for the sake of being bitter. I've had some astronomical IBU's (Dogfish Head 90 and 120 minute IPA anyone?) and this one clocking in at 95 had them ducking and covering. There was just no balance of hops and malt. I can drink a 90 minute, enjoy each sip and want another one but Green Flash's offering had me questioning my hops allegiance. I finished it, barely, and only because I come from the Old School...
Will Ferrell's Old School... not Grandpa's. No wounded soldiers!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Avery Brewing Imperial Oktoberfest "The Kaiser"

I first tried this Imperial Oktoberfest in November 2009 at The Twisted Vine in Fullerton, CA. It was part of a tasting of three and it blew the other two out of the water. The beer pours a nice hazy copper color with a lacy head that lasts for a long time. The brew clocks in at 9.3 ABV and you get a little bit of that alcohol on the palate but the malt bomb that characterizes this seasonal quickly neutralizes it. There are hints of orange and of course the spices that are inherent in an Oktoberfest. There is a slight hoppiness to the nose but again the bready aroma and taste overpowers it. The beer is well balanced and the body is not too heavy. I could drink this all night, except since it's not exactly a session beer you'd find me snoozing after two of these 22oz bottles. I've tried a few of Avery's other beers and I have always been pleasantly surprised. Pick a couple up you won't regret it.

Friday, January 15, 2010

My Wickedly Sharp Japanese Babies

Have you ever tried to cut through concrete with a plastic spork? I'm not even talking one of those newfangled titanium ones you can get at REI for ultralight camping.
I'm talking cheap, elementary school grade plastic Vs. concrete.
Than why in the heck would you choose to dice an onion or slice a carrot with anything less than a sharp knife?

I've never owned a good set of knives until the ones that I got most recently. Which ones did I choose to shell out my hard earned cash on? The title should have given it away but I bought a Shun Classic knife block set

They are incredibly sharp, light, and beautiful. Yes, my knives are beautiful. People who know me know I love my knives... a lot. I baby them like, well, a baby. A wickedly sharp, deadly, japanese baby, that comes with a lifetime warranty and free sharpening.


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Liquid Bacon...AKA The Original German Smoke Beer

Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Urbock

Do you know any vegetarians? How about vegans? D and I are friends with a couple where he is hard core vegan and she is a vegetarian, mostly, well kinda, she eats cheese, and eggs sometimes, and well, if you talked her into it probably some fish. But anyway, this story is about the vegan. 

We met up one night at the new gastropub in Orange, The Haven for a beer on a Saturday. I had been doing my nightly beer, wine, or spirits research and had recently read about the classic smoke beer Rauchbier. I was really excited when I saw that it was on the menu because I hadn't been able to find it anyplace else. D and I ordered before our friends got their. She ordered the Saison Dupont which I had introduced her to earlier. D doesn't like big heavy beers but she appreciates a well made one. The Saison has a nice tart lemon flavor and is bright and bubbly. A pretty typical farmhouse ale. Our friends finally showed up, and ordered. It happened that our vegan friend ordered the Stone Smoked Porter. Which I was excited about since that meant I could compare the two smoked ales side by side. 

I poured the Rauchebier which was a deep brown and clear, however the head did not stay long. It may have been the glass, I think something Haven uses in their glasses inhibits retention because I have never had a head last long there. That first drink hit me like a mastodon baby back rib to the forehead. I had never had a smoked beer before until this beer. NOTHING compares to this brew with its malt smoked over beechwood. The aftertaste of not just smoke but slow smoked meat like you would find at a southern pit barbecue restaurant lingered on my palate for a long time. I wasn't sure if I liked it or not but it definitely was interesting and had an incredible depth of flavor. I switched brews for the Stone and I could barely detect a hint of smoke. That might have been because I still had a pulled pork sandwich aftertaste from the Rauchbier in my mouth but there definitely was no comparison. I anxiously awaited the reaction from the vegan from his first swig. He swallowed, paused, and smiled. "That is sooo good! It tastes like, LIQUID BACON." Needless to say, The Vegan, did not want to give my beer back since he was drinking the animal protein he had foresaken for so long. I'm not sure how he remembered what  bacon tastes like I only know that I definitely did not get a whole lot more of my rauchbier. 

Moral? If you want a big, beefy(literally), smoky beer, with a LOT going on in the flavor department try this one out. Oh, and if you want to keep your liquid bacon don't give it to a vegan. 


Friday, January 8, 2010

Private Chefs of Beverly Hills, the Worst Cooking Show...Ever

Private Chefs of Beverly Hills is one of the worst if not THE worst new reality show I have seen in a long time. Not only is the show AWFUL but the chefs and the company that they work for are completely unprofessional and lack basic skills even D and I have.

 The company that is featured on the show is called Big City Chefs and it is based out of San Francisco apparently. I don't know who runs the company but if there is one thing that seems to unite all chefs across the board it's the possession of an HUGE EGO! Why then, knowing this, would you ever ever ever send more than one chef to cater a function? HUGE EGO + HUGE EGO = HUGE DISASTER! Makes for drama on the television but it is PAINFUL to watch because the chefs are HORRIBLE actors.

I have an idea, send one chef and some sous chefs. Brilliant! Better yet, send one 12 year old capable of using a microwave, one 16 year old because he can drive, give them a credit card so that the 16 year old can take the 12 year old to the supermarket to buy some high quality TV dinners. Then have a highschool senior in an honors english class change the name of the boxed dinners to something more fancy sounding.
                                 For Example:
        Kid Cuisine Snowman shaped Mac and Cheese

Honors Englishified: Whimsical 3 Cheese Pasta
                               Sweet Baby Corn Maque Choux
                   Duo of Holiday White Chocolate Truffles

One example of a pair of chef's lack of all things chefworthy is a failed chocolate mousse turning into a search of the client's entire kitchen for anything that they can serve as a dessert. This search ends with the discovery of a boxed brownie mix.  The two chefs somehow butcher a BOXED mix onto the plate and make it look like, for lack of a better word, doodoo. This picture, believe it or not looks better than their product.

One of the chefs on the first episode is Brian from Top Chef Season 1.

He got kicked off for cooking mushy carrots to little kids. It doesn't look like he has learned anything from this as he insists on serving a salad of mixed greens, grapes, and who knows what else in a martini glass to a roomful of teenagers on their way to homecoming. It comes then as no surprise that the prissy princess of Beverly Hills that is host to the party remarks. "It was so gross, I threw up a little bit in my mouth."

He did however redeem himself by making "special" tortilla chips that the kids were raving about. He calls them "crack chips" on the show, appropriate for teenagers and so VERY special. Ingredients? Kosher salt, quartered tortillas and canola oil. I think that is called, Tostitos where I'm from.

 I know for a fact that D and I could plan and prepare a better menu then every one of the dinners that was shown on the first episode. One word, pathetic

Sunday, January 3, 2010

New Years at The Old Vine Cafe Costa Mesa

I had heard great things about The Old Vine Cafe.
2937 Bristol St. Suite A-102 Costa Mesa, CA 92626 (The Camp)

Ok mainly I had heard how amazing their burrata (locally sourced) is. We even attempted to procure said burrata (at 10PM) after a dissappointing dinner(more on that later) at the tapas restaurant, Boqueria.

The Old Vine was having two seatings for New Years, one at 5:30 and the other at 8:30. D and I are DEFinitely not early dinner people. I HATE Thanksgivings that start at like 1 PM. I eat, stuff myself, then I am hungry again and raid the fridge and feel like a heifer(cow). Hence the reason I chose the 8:30 seating. There were two prix fixe menus to choose from: The Original and the Vegetarian. Not wanting to miss out on any of the dishes and D being fine with either as long as she had burrata we ordered both of them. Here comes the amazing thing:

Each course of the 4 came with a paired glass of wine. 8 total courses 8 glasses of wine. D and I being who we are asked if we could order a glass BEFORE dinner since we were early. Our waiter, Mario, (every time I hear that name I can't get Nintendo's Mario voice out of my head) looked at us as if we were crazy and told D that if she could walk out upright after dinner he would buy our wine. Us, being the "professionals" ordered. She had the Cristalino Cava (super dry, a one note wonder, we stock a 4$ bottle that's better) Me? I was intrigued by the Chikurin "Hou Hou" Sparkling Sake (D's comment? Tastes like a soda) I'll try anything once. Even this slightly embarrassing looking bottle to the right here. Japanese schoolgirl anyone?

Now, my glass could only be as full as the bottle over to the right but D's glass? Cava in a white wine glass HALF FULL (6 oz at least) This would become a theme with Mario. Who is an AWEsome waiter and not just because of the pours and his name. He knew his wine, he loved to talk about it, and he took the time to explain each course and why each wine was chosen for the food. D and I are certified by WSET in wine so we annoy our friends when we go out but wine is a passion of ours.

First Course: